Triggering Article 16 would be ‘irresponsible’ – Taoiseach
The Taoiseach has said nothing is certain regarding the triggering of Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol by the British government and he warned of the dangers of self-fulfilling prophecies.
Yesterday, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said evidence suggests the British government is preparing to trigger Article 16 of the protocol.
He warned that doing so could lead to a trade dispute between the European Union and the UK.
Speaking this morning in Cork, Micheál Martin said he believes if there is a will it should lead to what he called a positive conclusion to the negotiations that are currently under way between the British government and the EU.
He said the bigger picture of the relationship between Britain and the EU and the relationship between the British and Irish governments should be kept in mind and nothing should be done unilaterally to endanger those relationships.
Asked what contingencies the Government is making to prepare for a trade war, Mr Martin said: “Let’s take it one step at a time, as I said the immediate focus is on the negotiations between the EU and the UK.”
He repeated his comments that it would be reckless and irresponsible to trigger Article 16.
Mr Martin was speaking at a flag raising ceremony to mark the establishment of the Munster Technological University.
Article 16 of the protocol allows either side to unilaterally suspend elements of the deal if it creates serious economic, societal or environmental problems.
The arrangement effectively keeps Northern Ireland inside the EU’s single market for goods, resulting in some checks for products crossing the Irish Sea from Great Britain.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Brexit minister David Frost have argued the EU’s interpretation of the deal has led to difficulties, which have created the condition to justify the use of Article 16.
Earlier this morning, a former Irish Ambassador to London and the EU said he believes the EU and UK are heading towards a crisis.
Bobby McDonagh told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that if this happens it will trigger a “very significant crisis in British/EU relations and Irish/British relations”.
He said that the EU’s natural reaction would be to try to work towards a solution and will continue to do all it can to find a solution.
However, he added that this requires a degree of sincerity and compromise on the British part.
While legal action will be considered by the EU, he said, legal actions take a long time and there is no guarantee that the current British government will accept the decisions of a court.
Mr McDonagh said he believes that the EU will have no alternative but to consider some sort of trade action.
Elsewhere, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has accused Dublin and Brussels of engaging in “megaphone diplomacy” over the potential of a trade war with the UK.
He said comments from the Government and the EU around the prospect of retaliatory action if the UK suspends the protocol – potentially in the form of terminating the Trade and Co-operation Agreement – were causing “harm and damage”, and ratcheting up tensions.
Mr Donaldson expressed doubt the EU would take such a step, given its reliance on trade with the UK.
“The EU does a lot of trade with the United Kingdom,” he said.
“Germany, the biggest trading nation in the EU, the United Kingdom is its biggest market in Europe, it’s the second biggest market for Germany in the whole world.
“Does anyone seriously believe that the Germans want to open a trade war with the United Kingdom? That’s not the answer here.”
Additional reporting PA