Growing expectation that Article 16 may be triggered after the elections – Empey

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Growing expectation that Article 16 may be triggered after the elections – Empey

The Ulster Unionist Peer Lord Empey has said there is growing speculation at Westminster that Article 16 of the NI Protocol, may be triggered by the UK Government after the Assembly Elections, which take place in just under 4 weeks’ time.

Lord Empey said;

“While the atmosphere in the talks between the EU and UK on the Northern Ireland Protocol has improved, the fact is that the talks have lost momentum in recent weeks. There is of course the situation in Ukraine which is quite understandably taking up a lot of time and energy from both the Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and the European Commission, but the talks cannot drag on forever and are having a destabilising effect here in Northern Ireland.

“There are credible rumours at Westminster, that because of growing frustration amongst the UK negotiators, Article 16 may be triggered immediately after the Assembly Elections if no further progress is made. There is a feeling in some UK quarters that the EU may be playing things long in the hope that people here will come to accept the current situation as the status quo going forward.

“Article 16 is no panacea for our problems. This was made abundantly clear in an answer I received from Lord Frost dated 24 November 2021, in which he stated that “Article 16 is a safeguard provision for addressing serious economic, societal and environmental difficulties. It is part of the Protocol. Triggering it does not affect the standing of the Protocol as a whole.”

“Government sources are now saying that it might send the message to Brussels that London is serious about getting these negotiations quickly concluded.

 “The Ulster Unionist Party has been fully engaged throughout this process, from the very inception of the Protocol, warning of its danger to the Union and the long term economic consequences of growing divergence between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which is the inevitable consequence of the Protocol. Sadly, other Parties have either called for its rigorous implementation or failed to spot the dangers of a border in the Irish Sea and gave Boris Johnson the green light to move ahead with it.

“I believe that we are winning the argument over the Protocol; both London and Brussels know that the present situation cannot continue. There are alternatives out there and the key to solving this problem is full engagement with the UK and EU. Ulster Unionists have made proposals as to how we might replace the Protocol through amendments to the Treaty, setting out our long term relationship with the EU. Some of our suggestions have already been accepted and I am confident others will be as well.

“The Ulster Unionist Party believes that negotiations are the only way to go and we deeply regret that the Executive was collapsed, especially at a time when the people need its help more than ever to face the cost of living crisis. We are gradually winning the argument and putting alternatives forward to solve the problems created by the Protocol. That is the sensible and responsible way ahead.”