Liz Truss plans to launch an ‘Article 16’ case against the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol within days of entering Downing Street if she succeeds Boris Johnson as Prime Minister next month, multiple sources say government insiders.
The UK and Brussels are locked in a legal stalemate over the implementation of the deal covering post-Brexit trade deals in Northern Ireland, which has soured EU-UK relations since it came into force in January 2021.
Officials close to Truss have consulted with legal and business experts on the plans in recent weeks. The Allies said triggering Article 16 would provide a stopgap while legislation to unilaterally rewrite the Northern Ireland Protocol passes through the Commons, which is not expected until the end of this year at most. early.
The UK government tabled legislation in June to tear up the deal, prompting the European Commission to relaunch legal action against the UK for failing to properly implement Irish Sea border controls.
Triggering Article 16 would effectively exhaust legal options before the UK government follows through on its threat to unilaterally reject the protocol.
The UK has until September 15 to respond to the EU legal action – just 10 days after the Tory leader entered Downing Street. But insiders familiar with Truss’ plans have said if she becomes prime minister she could trigger Article 16 before that deadline to protect British businesses.
Truss’ campaign said its preference was for “a negotiated solution”, but acknowledged “there are serious issues with the Northern Ireland protocol which need to be addressed”.
Truss’ allies insist she was not “pushing” to trigger Article 16, but that it remained an option on the table if she became prime minister.
An official close to the foreign secretary said: ‘Some government officials have raised concerns about the issues ahead and presented ministers with many options to resolve them.
The planned move risks escalating tensions with Brussels at the start of a premiership of Truss, but campaign insiders have argued the action will be key to preserving the trade status quo in Northern Ireland.
Under the terms of the protocol, all goods going from Britain to Northern Ireland must follow EU rules, creating a trade border in the Irish Sea that the British government has declared “impassable”.
The EU has warned that if the UK tears up the protocol, it risks starting a trade war with Europe and potentially even suspending the entire trade and cooperation agreement that has been brokered between the two. parts.
Until relations broke down in June, the two had agreed to a “standstill deal” which required a lighter implementation of the deal. However, Truss allies said the EU lawsuit effectively ended that deal by reverting to a demand for full implementation.
The UK said in July 2021 that the conditions were already met to justify the use of Article 16, which can be triggered if either party believes the protocol has caused “serious hardship economic, societal or environmental”.
Once triggered, the two sides enter “immediate consultation” in the joint committee that governs the deal, but either side can take “proportionate rebalancing measures” if an agreement cannot be reached.
Truss’ plans come after HM Revenue & Customs informed UK steelmakers this week they will have to pay a 25% tariff to sell certain building products in Northern Ireland because of the protocol.
Steel industry representatives called the situation ‘outlandish’, while a UK government spokesman said the tariffs were an example of how the protocol is ‘unnecessarily damaging’ trade in the UK. Uni and “why it needs to be fixed urgently”.
The tariff decision was cited by a Truss ally as why it intends to act. “We can’t go on like this and something has to break the deadlock.”
The European Commission has said the UK has failed to provide the data it needs to resolve the tariff issue, which was triggered following changes to global import quotas for the EU in July.
He declined to comment on the potential triggering of Article 16.
Earlier this month, the UK government launched separate legal proceedings against Brussels after the commission blocked the UK’s membership of the €95.5 billion Horizon Europe science programme.
Participation in Horizon was negotiated in 2020 as part of the EU-UK trade deal, but was suspended due to the UK’s failure to comply with the Northern Ireland deal, have confirmed by EU officials.