Brexit trade deal in danger of unravelling if UK triggers Article 16, SDLP warns
The Brexit trade deal will be at risk of unravelling if the UK moves to suspend the Northern Ireland Protocol, the SDLP leader has warned.
Colum Eastwood said such unilateral action by the UK would wreck the trust required to sustain an international agreement.
Mr Eastwood said the EU had tabled proposals that addressed all the problems with the protocol that had been raised by people and businesses in Northern Ireland.
He said the UK demand for the removal of the oversight role of the European Court of Justice was not an issue of concern in the region and, as such, was a “red herring” forwarded by those who wanted the negotiations to fail.
Asked about the prospect of the EU taking retaliatory action if the UK suspends the protocol, potentially by axing the trade deal, Mr Eastwood told a Stormont press conference:
“If you’re the European Union or any country around the world and you enter into an agreement with another country, say for example the United Kingdom, if they continue to not live up to their responsibilities around a deal, we have no trust, these trade agreements need trust to be at the heart of them.
“What I’m really worried about is we have a reckless Prime Minister, we’ve Lord Frost who is absolutely ideological about this stuff, and they are not serious about doing a deal (on the protocol).
“That means there’s no trust between the European Commission, European Union and the British Government. How can we, on that footing, expect for things not to unravel further?
“The best thing to do is for people to be serious about the issues, sit down and resolve them in an adult fashion. But this kind of megaphone diplomacy threatening to trigger Article 16 – what does Article 16 actually do? It has a further negotiation.
“Why don’t we negotiate in the negotiation we’re in right now, that’s the best way to solve the problems.”
Mr Eastwood also condemned the “thugs” who burned a bus in a loyalist estate on the outskirts of Belfast on Sunday night.
He suggested it was part of orchestrated violence in protest against the protocol.
“That tap has been turned on but it’s being controlled. It’s absolutely wrong,” he said of the recent violence.
“I frankly think that people like Lord Frost and senior members of the DUP need to think very carefully about the language that they’re using, because they’re creating more and more instability on the streets of Northern Ireland.
“We should take away the threat to these institutions, we should take away the pretence that there’s some big battle around the protocol when it’s absolutely clear to anybody that the European Union have offered the people of Northern Ireland everything that they asked for.
“Now they (the UK Government and DUP) are talking about the ECJ, nobody I have ever met on the streets of Belfast or Derry or Newry or anywhere else has raised the issue of the ECJ.
“It’s a red herring, it’s a nonsense and it’s become a red line because some people don’t want to solve the problems around the protocol.”