LONDON – Britain would be ready to trigger Article 16 and unilaterally suspend some trading rules for Northern Ireland if forthcoming talks with the EU fail, UK chief negotiator Liz Truss said.
Writing in the Sunday TelegraphDays before meeting Maroš Šefčovič from the EU for personal talks, Truss said: “My priority is to protect peace and stability in Northern Ireland. I want a negotiated solution, but if we have to apply legitimate provisions, including Article 16, I am ready.
“This safeguard clause was specifically designed – and widely accepted – to alleviate acute problems due to the sensitivity of the problems,” she said.
Article 16 of the Brexit deal allows either side to take unilateral measures such as suspending trade controls between Great Britain and Northern Ireland if they conclude that the protocol is leading to “serious economic, social or environmental difficulties”.
In late December, Šefčovič warned that the entire deal with Britain would fail if such rules were lifted, saying the move would jeopardize peace in Northern Ireland and represent a “huge setback” for EU-UK relations.
Truss, who took over negotiations following the resignation of former Cabinet Minister David Frost in December, said on Sunday that she would “put forward our constructive proposals to resolve the situation.”
She will hold talks with Šefčovič on Thursday in Chevening, the foreign minister’s grace and favor.
Truss, widely viewed as a future Conservative leadership candidate looking to win the party’s right wing, also said she wants to “end the European Court of Justice’s role as the final arbitrator of disputes.”
Before Christmas, there had been signs that Britain might soften its stance on the role of the EU’s highest court of justice.
EU Ambassador to the UK João Vale de Almeida told Sky News on Sunday: “We have already heard this from the government so we are not surprised.
“We’re not too impressed, but we still believe that further agitation on Article 16 isn’t going to help. I think we should focus on … finding solutions to difficulties in implementing the protocol, “he said.
The European Commission said it had no comment on what Truss said.
This story has been updated with reactions.