The two sides are at odds over post-Brexit trade deals in Northern Ireland – nearly a year after Britain officially left the European Union. UK Brexit Minister Lord Frost is keen to overhaul large parts of the Northern Ireland protocol completely, continuing to insist that it just isn’t working. But the EU refuses to give in and the “far-reaching” proposals presented to British negotiators last month fall far short of their demands.
Boris Johnson and Lord Frost continue to warn that Article 16 remains “on the table” – suggesting that the UK could invoke it with immediate effect.
This mechanism makes it possible to suspend on both sides of the parts of the agreement that it no longer considers viable for economic, social or environmental reasons.
However, the EU was quick to retaliate by warning that it would retaliate forcefully if Article 16 were triggered, heightening fears of a potentially destructive trade war between the two sides.
Political experts fear the UK will employ a ‘high risk strategy’ by invoking Article 16, warning that Brexit will take Britain a much bigger hit from any subsequent trade war that may be triggered .
Wyn Grant, a British political scientist and professor of politics at the University of Warwick, told Express.co.uk: âBoris Johnson will trigger Article 16 if he thinks the concessions offered by the EU are insufficient, but c is a high risk strategy. .
“The EU has given way, but the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) is a red line for them and difficult for the UK to accept.
“If large parts of the deal are put on hold, the EU is likely to retaliate, sparking a trade war.
“It would mean losses for both sides, but the losses for the UK would be bigger.”
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Over the past few weeks, Lord Frost has continued to warn that the conditions to satisfy the trigger for Article 16 have been met, but has insisted he will try to find a solution that is mutually beneficial.
But Alistair Jones, associate professor of politics at De Montfort University in Leicester, argued that the motives for activating the mechanism might not exist at all.
He told Express.co.uk: “The problem here is the Article 16 activation rules – there must be serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties which are likely to persist.
“It is not specified, but the situation in Northern Ireland has not been as bad as mainland Britain in terms of food shortages or fuel shortages.
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âThere is a problem getting goods from Britain to Northern Ireland, but this was all detailed in the Withdrawal Agreement and the Post-Brexit Trade Agreement.
“The reasons for activating the article are slim.”
Professor Jones agreed that any trade war resulting from the EU’s retaliation against the triggering of Article 16 would have a much bigger impact on the UK.
He explained that some of the 27 EU countries now have “negligible trade” with Britain and therefore will not notice any material impact, while the size of the bloc in terms of product supply will work much more at its own. advantage.
The policy expert said: “The UK will be hit harder in a trade war than the EU collectively.
âSome EU member states have negligible trade with the UK and won’t see much of a difference.
“The EU will be better in size.
“They will be able to find alternatives to products of British origin within the EU, at a much lower cost than the UK trying to do the same.”