Saturday, 6 Mar 2021

What was EU thinking? Brussels unity shatters as Ireland ‘horrified’ by Article 16

EU made a ‘serious mistake’ on Article 16 says Michael Gove

At the end of January, a row over coronavirus vaccine supplies prompted the EU to use the “nuclear” option of invoking Article 16. This is part of the Northern Ireland Protocol which governs the island’s trading arrangements with the EU and Great Britain.

Emeritus Professor Adrian Guelke has condemned the bloc for trying to implement Article 16 without thinking of the repercussions on either side of the Irish border.

He told Express.co.uk this morning: “On the issue of what happened on [that] Friday night, with the Commission attempted to aggregate Article 16 or to use Article 16 on the website, that caught the Republic by surprise.

“They were horrified by the degree of incompetence of the Commission.

“It’s amazing to me that someone in the EU Commission would have heard of Article 16 but not taken in how sensitive it is.

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“Someone who was not thinking about the Irish at all would not have heard of Article 16 but you really think someone should have bothered to find out the sensitivities around Article 16.

“Obviously on that Friday night, the Republic was badly let down by the European Commission.”

Professor Guelke said it would not be possible to scrap the Northern Ireland protocol and warned any hard border on the island would be a “huge problem”.

He continued: “It’s not possible to scrap the protocol in an easy way.

“It is an international treaty, you don’t just scrap an international treaty, there has to be negotiations.

“You have to come up with alternatives.

“I don’t think it is straight forward at all.

“Theresa May had an alternative and that rejected and that’s why we have the protocol.

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“I think any border across Northern Ireland and border posts on the land border would also be a huge problem.

“I don’t think scrapping the protocol is on the cards.”

The protocol was one of biggest issues during negotiations between the EU and UK last year.

It was designed to keep trade flowing smoothly on the island and to avoid a hard border and checkpoints.

Article 16 is intended to be used when the protocol is unexpectedly leading to serious “economic, societal or environmental difficulties”.

After it was triggered, Boris Johnson told European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen he had “grave concerns” and spoke to Irish counterpart Micheal Martin.

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster described the move as an “incredible act of hostility”.

However, the EU soon announced it was “not triggering the safeguard clause” and argued it had been an “oversight”.

Ms von der Leyen tweeted following “constructive talks” with the Prime Minister.

She said: “We agreed on the principle that there should not be restrictions on the export of vaccines by companies where they are fulfilling contractual responsibilities.”

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