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What is Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol?

Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol is designed to provide “safeguards”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in Northern Ireland calling on the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to return to power-sharing at the Northern Ireland Assembly.

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The protocol, agreed by Britain and the EU after Brexit, prevents a hard border on the island of Ireland and came into force in January 2021. Its implementation has proved unpopular with Unionists in both Northern Ireland and Britain.

There have been calls for the government to trigger Article 16, which is a safeguard that could suspend elements of the protocol. However, instead of terminating the treaty outright, the UK received legal advice on May 12 that it could instead legislate to override parts of it.

What is Article 16 and how could the UK legally override parts of the EU treaty?

What is Article 16?

Posters against the Northern Ireland Protocol in the port of Larne (Photo: Getty Images)

Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol is designed to provide “safeguards”.

If either the UK or the EU determine that the protocol is causing serious problems, Article 16 can effectively suspend parts of the protocol.

This can only happen if the protocol “results in serious economic, social or environmental difficulties that are likely to persist or in a diversion of trade.”

However, the protocol does not describe what constitutes “serious economic, social or environmental difficulties” or a “trade diversion”.

This has led to speculation as to what would need to happen for Article 16 to be triggered.

In November 2021, Johnson said in a speech at the COP26 meeting that he “would rather find a negotiated solution to the problems created by the Northern Ireland Protocol”.

He continued: “But if we invoke Article 16 – which is, by the way, a perfectly legitimate part of this Protocol – we will do so reasonably and appropriately because we believe it is the only way to protect the territorial integrity of our country.” protect and fulfill our commitments to the people of Northern Ireland under the Belfast Agreement (Good Friday).

What is the Northern Ireland Protocol?

The Northern Ireland Protocol was implemented to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland after Brexit.

It was approved by the EU and UK governments in 2019 and came into force in January 2021.

The protocol prevents physical checks from being carried out between Ireland and Northern Ireland by leaving NI in the European single market.

England, Scotland and Wales left the European single market after Brexit.

This means that certain goods entering Northern Ireland from the UK will have to undergo additional checks and vice versa.

How do checks work between Northern Ireland and Great Britain?

Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, EU rules on tariffs and regulation of agricultural and food products apply to goods arriving in NI.

This means that goods such as meat and eggs have to be checked, which has led to delays in the procurement of goods.

How does the Northern Ireland Protocol work? (Image: National World/Kim Mogg)

In December 2021, the Jewish community of Northern Ireland highlighted the impact of these controls on access to kosher food.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Michael Black, leader of Belfast’s Jewish community, said: “Due to the new barriers, our cupboards are almost empty of kosher food.

“If these bottlenecks are not addressed soon, we will face real difficulties on a daily basis, as well as in celebrating important events in our religious calendar such as the Jewish Passover in April.”

What happens if the UK triggers Article 16?

The procedure for triggering Article 16 is described in the Protocol under Appendix seven.

First, if one side decides to trigger Article 16, it must inform the other “immediately” via the UK-EU Joint Committee.

Neither side can take protective action until one month has passed after they announced that they wish to trigger the item.

However, if there are “extraordinary circumstances that require immediate action,” the process can be expedited.

Why are Unionists unhappy with the Northern Ireland Protocol?

There was opposition to the protocol from unionists in Northern Ireland and across the UK.

They oppose the protocol as they believe it creates a border in the Irish Sea and undermines NI’s place in the UK.

Riots in Belfast against the Northern Ireland Protocol (Image: Getty Images)

The DUP described the protocol in its party program as “an existential threat” to the future of Northern Ireland.

They refuse to form an executive with the Northern Ireland government, citing protocol as the reason.

But it’s not just unionists in Northern Ireland, Conservative MP for Burton Upon Trent Andrew Bridgen is also a vocal critic, telling BBC Politics in April 2021: “It’s just plain clear that the EU wants Northern Ireland to be annexed away from us, and this is what you always wanted…

“Ultimately, I think we are being stitched together by the European Union and that has had a very bad effect on the DUP – quite rightly so.”

How could the UK legally override parts of the protocol?

The government plans to publish legislation to override parts of the protocol.

On May 12, the Attorney General for England and Wales, Suella Braverman, is said to have given final approval to priority parts of the protocol.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and European Commission Vice-President for Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight Maroš Šefčovič (Photo: Getty Images)

It is speculated that they will suspend the trade border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain in order to restore power sharing at Stormont.

However, any legislation intended to overrule any part of the protocol would have to go through Parliament, which could take time to be approved.

There are also fears that the UK could face retaliation from the EU for turning its back on the treaty.

https://www.nationalworld.com/news/politics/what-is-article-16-of-the-northern-ireland-protocol-uk-brexit-eu-3695303 What is Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol?

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