UK Will End NI Customs Checks Without EU Concessions, Truss Warns Brussels

 Liz Truss - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.05.2022
Attorney General Suella Braverman — the UK government's lawyer — has reportedly advised Downing Street that it would be justified in making changes to the protocol tacked on to the EU Withdrawal Agreement, arguing that it has disrupted trade and caused social unrest.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has warned that Britain will take action on the troublesome Northern Ireland Protocol if the European Union (EU) refuses to compromise.
The Foreign Office made the announcement on Thursday following what was described as a "tetchy" telephone call between Truss and Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission's vice-president for "Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight".
Truss told the former Slovak diplomat that the way the protocol had been applied had created "the greatest obstacle" to forming a new power-sharing administration in Northern Ireland following last week's elections to the Stormont assembly.
"The foreign secretary noted this with regret and said the situation in Northern Ireland is a matter of internal peace and security for the United Kingdom", a Foreign Office spokesperson said. "If the EU would not show the requisite flexibility to help solve those issues, then as a responsible government we would have no choice but to act".
The Democratic Unionist Party, now the second-largest party in the assembly after Republicans Sinn Fein, has refused to join a power-sharing government unless customs checks on goods from mainland Britain and a ban on certain goods like chilled meats and potted plants are dropped.
The Times reported on Wednesday evening that Attorney General Suella Braverman — the government's lawyer — had advised Downing Street that it would be justified in making changes to the protocol.
She argued that the EU's implementation of the protocol was "disproportionate and unreasonable" and undermined the 1999 Good Friday Agreement (GFA) — which ended the 30-year Troubles — by creating a trade barrier down the Irish Sea between the Six Counties and the UK mainland.

"There’s mountains of evidence that there’s a trade barrier down the middle of our country", an unnamed government source told the newspaper. "Suella has argued that trade is being diverted".

The protocol was added to the UK's post-Brexit Withdrawal Agreement with the EU after the Irish government claimed a "hard border" between north and south on the island of Ireland would breach the GFA, which guarantees free movement between the two states by keeping Northern Ireland within the EU's common market area.
British and Irish citizens already have the right to travel between the two countries and live and work indefinitely visa-free under the bilateral Common Travel Area agreement dating back to the time of Irish independence and partition a century ago. Brussels threatened during Brexit talks to impose customs checkpoints on the land border, while London proposed high-tech solutions for seamless border traffic.
Braverman's advice also addresses increasing "societal unrest" in the territory. "There are increasing signs of violence in Northern Ireland", the source added. "That can’t be allowed to carry on".
The customs checks have sparked violent protests in loyalist areas, and in one recent incident, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney was forced to abandon a speaking engagement in Belfast after an elaborate hoax bomb threat.
Those points appear to address Article 16 of the protocol, which allows either the UK or EU to take "appropriate safeguard measures" if "the application of this Protocol leads to serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist, or to diversion of trade".
Graffiti in a loyalist area of south Belfast, Northern Ireland against an Irish sea border is seen on February 2, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 10.05.2022
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Contrary to portrayals in the mainstream media, Article 16 is not a get-out clause for either side. It states that any safeguarding steps must be "restricted with regard to their scope and duration to what is strictly necessary in order to remedy the situation".
Either side must give the other one month's notice of their proposed measures, and both are obliged to immediately begin talks to find a "commonly acceptable solution". Meanwhile the other party can take "proportionate rebalancing measures" in response.
Further "consultations" must be held every three months in an attempt to end the special measures, and either side can appeal to the agreement's joint adjudicating committee to "review" them.
Interviewed by ITV political editor Robert Peston on Wednesday, Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said the UK would not respond to any attempt by the EU to launch a trade war in retaliation — thereby preventing further inflation by refusing to impose import tariffs on EU goods.

"They're not going to stop selling things to us, and we have decided, actively, not to put more controls on... to keep prices down", Rees-Mogg told the insistent Peston. "Tit-for-tat retaliation of that kind is the economics of the schoolground".

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