Labour has warned that scrapping the Northern Ireland Protocol could damage the UK’s international reputation.
Labour’s shadow justice secretary Steve Reed, told Sky News earlier today that triggering Article 16 to suspend to deal would make the UK a “pariah”.
“If you sign an international treaty if two countries in the world sign an international treaty and one of them rips it up, that state becomes a pariah.
“Why would anyone else on the planet believe a word that state said?” he argued.
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The Northern Ireland Protocol was implemented to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the wake of Brexit by keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods. Unionist groups have heavily criticised it for allegedly undermining Northern Ireland’s union with the rest of the UK. The UK is still outside the EU customs union.
In Thursday’s Northern Ireland Assembly elections, the Irish nationalist party Sinn Féin became the largest party for the first time in its history, with the Democratic Unionist Party coming runners up. However, the DUP can compromise the devolved region’s ability to form an executive by refusing to nominate deputy ministers. They say they will not do so until “decisive action” is taken on the Protocol.
The UK government could use Article 16 to suspend this deal, according to some suggestions. They argue that the row is stifling Northern Irish politics and that such an action will help preserve peace.
Yesterday evening Truss made a public intervention, stating that: “The current EU proposals fail to properly address the real issues affecting Northern Ireland and in some cases would take us backwards. The prices have risen, trade has been severely disrupted, and Northern Ireland’s people are subject to different laws than those over the Irish Sea. This has left them with no Executive and is a threat to stability and peace. There is no solution other than more paperwork, checks and disruption.
“Our preference has always been for a negotiated solution but will not shy away from taking action to stabilize the situation in Northern Ireland if solutions cannot be found,” she went on.
Truss and European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič are set to hold talks in the coming days, but there is no promise the latter will be permitted to negotiate the deal.
Šefčovič stressed his stance in a statement last night, saying: “The protocol, as a cornerstone of the withdrawal agreement, is an international agreement. Its renegotiation cannot be allowed. The European Union is united in this position.”
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz followed up by stating that: “No one should unilaterally cancel, break or in any way attack the settlement we have agreed together.”
Labour’s shadow justice secretary also claimed today, that suspending the Protocol would, “damage the economy because he could end up triggering a trade war with the European Union, our biggest trading partner”.
Reed said threats to suspend the arrangement were a “really dangerous move… at this stage.”
“We need to remember how the Northern Ireland Protocol came into being in the first place. Boris Johnson negotiated it, it was part of the Brexit deal that back in 2019 the prime minister came and said was an oven-ready Brexit deal, it was a good deal for Britain, everything in it was sorted and resolved and we must vote it.”
“Further down the line, it turns out, as often happens with this prime minister, he had lied. He said there would be no border down the Irish Sea over his dead body… there is a border down the Irish Sea because the protocol requires there to be one, the protocol that Boris Johnson signed,” he went on.