UK Foreign Secretary Threatens to Override Brexit Pact Over Northern Ireland

UK Foreign Secretary Threatens to Override Brexit Pact Over Northern Ireland
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in an undated file photo. (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Alexander Zhang

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has warned the EU that she's prepared to unilaterally override parts of the post-Brexit agreement on Northern Ireland if negotiations fail.

Truss was handed responsibility for the negotiations after Lord David Frost resigned as Brexit minister in December 2021. She'll hold her first face-to-face talks with her EU counterpart, European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic, when he visits the UK on Jan. 13.

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Truss said she would suggest “constructive proposals” to Sefcovic, but if a deal can't be struck, she would be “willing” to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol, which would suspend parts of the treaty designed to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

She said it's her “absolute priority” to resolve the “unintended consequences” created by the protocol to maintain peace in Northern Ireland.

“I will not sign up to anything which sees the people of Northern Ireland unable to benefit from the same decisions on taxation and spending as the rest of the UK, or which still sees goods moving within our own country being subject to checks,” Truss said.

“I want a negotiated solution but if we have to use legitimate provisions including Article 16, I am willing to do that.”

In response to Truss’s threat, EU Ambassador to the UK João Vale de Almeida said it's unhelpful to “keep agitating the issue” of triggering Article 16.

“We’ve heard this before from the government, so we’re not surprised," he told Sky News. "We are not too impressed.”

De Almeida called for “new momentum” in the talks.

“We are eager to reconnect, but we are even more eager to find compromises because we need to move on," he said. "It’s been too long.”

Last week, Sefcovic warned that “the foundation of the entire deal” brokered between the UK and the EU will be jeopardised if the UK takes the drastic step.

“The Northern Ireland Protocol was the most complicated part of the Brexit negotiations, and it is the foundation of the entire deal. Without the protocol, the whole system will collapse. We must prevent that at any cost,” he told German newspaper Der Spiegel.

The Northern Ireland Protocol has been fiercely opposed by unionists in the British province, who complain that it effectively keeps Northern Ireland within the EU single market while erecting a border in the Irish Sea between the province and mainland Britain.

PA Media contributed to this report.