EU given Brexit respite as Truss unlikely to trigger Article 16 – relations on tenterhooks

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There has been speculation Ms Truss, who is known for being tough on the EU, could have triggered the emergency measure over the Northern Ireland Protocol in the early days of her premiership. Article 16 allows either the UK or the EU to take unilateral “safeguard” measures if they conclude the deal is leading to “serious” problems or causing trade disruption.

The wording of Article 16 is vague and it is undefined what constitutes a “serious” problem within the deal.

However, there have been numerous issues with the NI Protocol, the most glaring of which is the EU requirement for checks on certain goods moving between NI and Great Britain in order to protect its single market.

The checks have caused trade disruption and have angered Unionists in the country. Liz Truss said, when she was Foreign Secretary, the “Good Friday Agreement was under strain”.

Northern Ireland’s Unionist parties, who are against the regulations implemented by the NI Protocol, have been calling for Article 16 to be triggered since 2021.

This led political commentators to speculate that the new Prime Minister was poised to trigger Article 16 to unilaterally change parts of the deal. As Foreign Secretary, Ms Truss had threatened to use Article 16 if negotiations over the Protocol broke down.

EU officials have previously warned triggering Article 16 would further damage relations between the UK and the bloc.

According to reporting by the Financial Times, close allies of Ms Truss have said the emergency measure is unlikely to be triggered.

One said: “I’d be surprised if we go down the Article 16 route, although we’re not ruling anything out.”

Although Article 16 could be off the table, a bill which will allow the UK to universally scrap parts of the deal is making its way through Parliament.

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As Liz Truss took the UK’s top job she received warm messages from EU leaders, however European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen added a veiled swipe to the end of her congratulatory note.

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said in a tweet: “Congratulations Liz Truss. The EU and the UK are partners.

“We face many challenges together, from climate change to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I look forward to a constructive relationship, in full respect of our agreements.”

The “agreement” mentioned in the tweet is likely a veiled reference to the Northern Ireland Protocol which is likely to remain a sticking point for both parties in the foreseeable future.

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