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U.K. Steps Up Plan to Potentially Suspend Northern Irel...

Newsdeck

Brexit woes worsen over N. Ireland

U.K. Steps Up Plan to Potentially Suspend Northern Ireland Brexit Deal

By Bloomberg
18 Mar 2022 0

(Bloomberg) --U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has told officials to move to the next stage of preparations to suspend parts of the post-Brexit deal for Northern Ireland, a move that would inflame tensions with the European Union.

By Joe Mayes
Mar 17, 2022, 9:35 PM
Word Count: 483

Truss gave the instructions — first reported by the Times — after becoming frustrated by the faltering talks with the EU over the future of the region, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans aren’t public. Even so, the person said it’s very unlikely the U.K. would suspend the deal in the short term.

The preparations are a reflection of the divisions that remain between the U.K. and the EU over how to treat trade between Northern Ireland and the British mainland, despite their close cooperation over the war in Ukraine. Truss has been leading negotiations with the bloc since December but there has been no breakthrough.

Northern Ireland has been a persistent sore spot in post-Brexit relations with the bloc. The U.K. government argues that the Brexit deal hurts the province and is calling for reforms, while the EU says it is merely enforcing an agreement that the British government willingly signed.

What’s the Deal?
Suspending the Northern Ireland Protocol using the Article 16 mechanism — which allows either side to unilaterally break from parts of the agreement if it is causing negative social or economic consequences — would be a major escalation by the U.K., and the EU has previously hinted it would impose retaliatory tariffs on Britain for doing so.

Truss’s preference remains for a negotiated solution with the EU, but Britain is keeping all options on the table, the person familiar said. Truss wants Britain and the EU to be focused on responding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and is disappointed negotiators haven’t been able to reach a pragmatic compromise on Northern Ireland, the person said.

Read More: Eyes on Downing Street, Liz Truss Faces Tricky Brexit Choice (1)

Using the Article 16 clause was a prospect regularly threatened by David Frost, who led British negotiations with the EU until he resigned at the end of last year. While Truss’s arrival appeared to inject fresh vigor into the talks, the two sides have yet to show meaningful progress.

The U.K.’s primary complaint is that too many goods crossing from Great Britain into Northern Ireland are subject to EU customs checks, and that the frequency of checks is disproportionate to the threat the goods pose to the bloc’s single market. Britain also wants to remove any influence of the European Court of Justice over Northern Ireland.

The EU position is that Britain agreed to the customs checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea when it signed the Brexit deal, and that it won’t budge on the role of the ECJ, which is the final arbiter of the single market rules that Northern Ireland remains subject to.

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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