Minister Coveney warns UK against triggering Article 16 of NI Protocol
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney says free-trade agreement depends on the NI Protocol being upheld by London
9 November 2021 | 0
The European Union will consider setting aside the free-trade agreement with the United Kingdom if Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol is invoked, warned Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.
Minister Coveney said the EU “would respond in a very serious way” if the UK invokes Article 16, effectively putting on hold the operation agreement on Northern Ireland between the EU and the UK.
He said the free-trade agreement between the two depends on the protocol being operated by London. “One is contingent on the other. So that if one is being set aside, there is a danger that the other will also be set aside by the EU,” Coveney told RTÉ’s This Week programme. He said he hoped the dispute would not escalate into a trade war between the two, but that the EU would conclude that the UK is not operating in good faith if Article 16 is invoked.
He said he needed to be blunt in his warnings to London that suspension of the protocol would not be viewed as a minor issue by the EU.
Coveney said the prime minister and UK’s chief Brexit negotiator Lord Frost has offered nothing in negotiations but continually asked for more and that the British government, is looking to “rewrite the protocol entirely when they know that the EU can’t, and won’t, do that”.
Coveney also said that the move would damage relations between London and Washington. President Joe Biden has warned Britain repeatedly about actions that might damage the peace process in Northern Ireland.
Triggering Article 16 is of real concern to those in the north. Aodhán Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium said, “The community here is tired. We have Brexit fatigue, we have Protocol fatigue. We just want to make things work. There is a health crisis. We are still in the middle of a global pandemic. There are cost rises on everything from groceries to fuel, and this is affecting everyone’s pocket.
“So, what we don’t need is another headache by Article 16 being invoked or a long protracted negotiation period. We need stability, certainty, simplicity, and we need affordability,” he said.