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P
Pa
January 14, 2021

‘No hesitation’ in triggering Article 16 of NI Protocol if needed

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P
Pa
January 14, 2021

LONDON: The UK government will have “no hesitation” in triggering Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol if necessary due to trade difficulties, Boris Johnson has said.

During PMQs, the Prime Minister said “teething problems” had led to images of empty supermarkets on the island, but that the government would step in to resolve any issues if they became “disproportionate”. Johnson said he would do this by invoking Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which covers post-Brexit trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and which allows the EU or the UK to “unilaterally take appropriate safeguard measures” if its application leads to “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist”.

It comes as supermarkets and retailers grapple with post-Brexit arrangements for importing food products from Great Britain following the end of the transition period on December 31. The Prime Minister’s remarks followed a letter written on Tuesday by the chief executives of Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Iceland, Co-op and Marks and Spencer to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove over concerns about food supplies coming into Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

Unhappy with Johnson’s description of the issue as “teething problems”, DUP MP Ian Paisley (North Antrim) told MPs that the people of Northern Ireland had been “screwed over” by the protocol. During a later urgent question on the issue, Paisley told the Commons: “What did we do? What did we do to members on those benches over there to be screwed over by this protocol?

“Ask your hearts, every single one, what did we do? Because what has happened to this protocol – it has ruined trade in Northern Ireland and it is an insult to our intelligence to say it is a teething problem. Tell that to my constituents.”

Earlier during PMQs the DUP’s Westminster leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson told the Prime Minister that supply issues leading to many empty supermarket shelves were “caused by the Northern Ireland Protocol”.