The UK is ready to activate the Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol if the EU refuses to renegotiate it. This is the warning that the British Secretary of State for Brexit, David Frost, made this Monday during a speech at the annual congress of the Conservatives, which is held in Manchester. For Frost, who was the British Brexit negotiator, the country “cannot wait forever” for Brussels to “move” with regard to the changes that, from his point of view, are necessary for the protocol, which is part of the divorce agreement, works properly. This requires a “significant change”, a “substantial renegotiation”, as it is not enough to make “small adjustments”. Only in this way, he said, will London and Brussels be able to maintain a “friendly relationship based on free trade.” “But we cannot wait forever,” warned Frost, adding that “without a consensus solution soon, we will have to act, using the Article 16 safeguard mechanism, to address the impact the protocol is having on Northern Ireland.” and thus become “the only way to protect” the country.
Article 16 of the protocol it’s a safeguard clause that allows either party to take unilateral action if they consider that the agreement “leads to serious economic, social or environmental difficulties that may persist” over time. The Brexit secretary confirmed in his speech that the Johnson government has ready a series of legal documents to justify its cancellation of the protocol and that they also contain a plan to solve the commercial crisis that generated the divorce in Northern Ireland, which received a status Special because, although it is part of the UK, it shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland, which is a member of the EU. Precisely, the protocol aims to avoid a physical border between the two countries, since this I would break the peace agreement which was signed to end three decades of bloody conflict in the region. To avoid a hard border on the island, and at the same time follow the community rules, it was agreed that they would be carried out customs controls on goods entering Northern Ireland from other parts of the UK in ports and not on land, but unionists argue that this has effectively put a border in the Irish Sea, while companies and the population denounce that the supply chain has become complicated.
London had already called for the removal of controls and restrictions on products entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain that do not run the risk of crossing into the Republic and therefore the single market, but Brussels disagrees. “We await a formal response from the EU to our proposals,” said Frost. In fact, it is expected that should the British finally activate the protocol, the Twenty-seven will take response actions. like imposing tariffs on UK imports.
For Frost, however, what is important is that “the long and bad dream of our membership of the EU is over. The British renaissance has begun ”, he asserted, thus defending the path traveled by the country in these almost ten months since the final departure from the community club. However, the population does not seem to be so convinced that the Brexit achievements that the Executive is proud of are such. At least this is clear from the results of a survey by the YouGov consultancy published a few days ago. «The transition period ended on December 31, 2020. Since then, Do you think Brexit has gone well or badly?“The 6,546 adults surveyed were asked, of whom only 18% answered that the divorce went well. The majority, 53%, consider that this is not the case, and they responded that the situation is bad or quite bad. In the previous survey, carried out in June, only 38% considered that Brexit was bad, but it is possible that the shortage of drivers that caused a major fuel crisis in recent days, as well as the rise in energy prices , the shortages and an imminent tax increase, are changing the opinion of the people.
Despite all this internal chaos, which could worsen with the arrival of winter and the demand for the Christmas season, since 54% of the population says they disapprove of the work of the ‘premier’, for now Johnson appears to be holding out, with his party leading the vote. A poll by the same consultancy with the newspaper ‘The Times’ revealed that 39% of those polled today would vote for the Conservative Party, and only 31% for the Labor party, led by Keir Starmer. Of course, if the elections were now, the conservatives would lose 12 electoral districts of the so-called Blue Wall and 17 of the Red Wall to Labor, who in the general elections of December 2019 saw how many of their voters changed sides and helped give the absolute majority to the ‘Tories’.