‘It cannot drift!’ Truss urged to make breakthrough on hated Brexit deal – new issue looms

Simon Coveney grilled on 'finding answers' over Article 16 row

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He expressed particular concern that ongoing negotiations over the Protocol could impact upcoming elections in Northern Ireland.

He said: “We have elections in Northern Ireland in May. Those elections will begin in earnest really from the end of February.

“So this can’t drift on for months.”

One of the UK’s major sticking points with the Protocol is that it hands the European Court of Justice (ECJ) the role of overseeing whether trade between Britain and Northern Ireland is taking place in accordance with EU law.

Ms Truss recently confirmed the UK’s position “has not changed” after talks with European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič.

In a statement, she insisted that she would be prepared to trigger Article 16 if the ECJ’s position remains unaltered.

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“If this does not happen, we remain prepared to trigger Article 16 safeguards to deal with the very real problems faced in Northern Ireland.”

Triggering Article 16 would allow for parts of the Protocol to be ignored.

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Mr Šefčovič has argued that the UK should stop falling back on threatening to trigger Article 16, warning that this is an “enormously disruptive element in negotiations”.

But Northern Ireland Conservative Aaron Rankin responded fiercely, suggesting that the EU should consider its own actions rather than point the finger at others (in this case, the UK Government).

“Has it occurred to the EU that maybe they’re the problem?”

Talks on the Northern Ireland Protocol will resume in 2022.

As it stands, and agreeable endpoint does not appear to be looming.

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