EU threats to impose controls on Northern Ireland ‘unwise and quite inflammatory’

EU ‘unwise and inflammatory’ over Article 16 says Rutter

Jill Rutter, from UK in a Changing Europe, slammed the European Union’s threat to trigger Article 16 and override the Northern Ireland protocol amidst the bloc’s row with coronavirus vaccine manufacturers over a lack of supply. The former civil servant’s remarks came before the EU was forced into a humiliating U-turn on Friday night in the wake of widespread outrage at the plan. Mr Rutter argued that the EU’s decision had now “put the bar very low” for ditching aspects of the Northern Ireland protocol.

Ms Rutter told Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy that the real impact of the row had yet to be felt.

She said: “Well we don’t know yet what effect it will have in practice because of course at the moment the EU is only asking companies to notify them that they are going to export rather than actually stopping those exports.

“But I think the worry about the triggering of Article 16 is there is a pretty high bar towards using Article 16.

“If you read this it is a sort of safeguard that you use in the event of what are likely to be long term economic or security or societal disruption 

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“The government here has been under some pressure from the Democratic Unionists to trigger it because of the disruption that we have seen on GB to Northern Ireland trade under the protocol where the UK is administrating this new border in the Irish Sea.

“As a result of that protocol Boris Johnson signed up to so there is real political pressure saying this is too disruptive, it’s having an impact on lives in Northern Ireland, Uk Government should be resorting to Article 16,” she continued.

“The Government has resisted that but effectively the EU is now putting the barrier very very low and I think that is a very unwise and quite an inflammatory move by the EU in these circumstances.”

Brussels last night backed down on its threat to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol as part of its export controls on coronavirus vaccines.

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A European Commission statement said: “In the process of finalisation of this measure, the commission will ensure that the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol is unaffected.

“The commission is not triggering the safeguard clause.”

But the desperate bloc continued to threaten further action, saying: “Should transits of vaccines and active substances toward third countries be abused to circumvent the effects of the authorisation system, the EU will consider using all the instruments at its disposal.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had warned European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen of his “grave concerns” over the move to disrupt the supply of jabs.

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A Downing Street spokesman said: “He expressed his grave concerns about the potential impact which the steps the EU has taken today on vaccine exports could have.”

The protocol, which is part of the Withdrawal Agreement, is designed to allow the free movement of goods from the EU into Northern Ireland, and prevent the need for a hard border on the island of Ireland.

But triggering Article 16 would have temporarily placed export controls on the movement of vaccines, a move that was threatened by the EU to prevent Northern Ireland being used as a back door to move coronavirus vaccines from the bloc into the UK.

The EU has faced intense criticism over its slow vaccine rollout.

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