By James Ward, PA
A decision to trigger Article 16 would have “far-reaching implications” for the UK government’s relationships with Ireland and the EU, the Taoiseach has warned.
Micheál Martin said the trade agreement between the UK and the EU was conditional on the Northern Ireland protocol of the Brexit deal being implemented.
The British government has threatened to trigger Article 16, a move that would effectively unilaterally suspend the treaty, and is calling for the removal of the oversight role European Court of Justice in its operation.
The Taoiseach said that such a move would be “irresponsible, unwise and reckless” and would shake the foundations of the Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace to Northern Ireland.
"It would be irresponsible, unwise and it would be reckless to invoke Article 16. If such an act was to be taken by the British government, I think it would have far reaching implications for the relationship between the United Kingdom & the European Union."@MichealMartinTD pic.twitter.com/WuoVp05Amb
— Fianna Fáil (@fiannafailparty) November 3, 2021
Mr Martin said he had spoken with US president Joe Biden at the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow this week, who told him “how the Good Friday Agreement matters very deeply to his administration” and that this position had been made “unequivocally clear” to the British government.
Speaking in the Dáil on Wednesday, Mr Martin said: “In my view, it would be irresponsible, it would be unwise, and it would be reckless to invoke Article 16 as a response to the proposals from the European Commission.
“I think if such an act was to be taken by the British government, I think it would have far-reaching implications for the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union.
“I think it also would have implications for the relationship between the United Kingdom government and the Irish Government, because such an action would not be in accordance with the spirit of partnership that has informed the peace process from the get-go.
“And that has informed the creation of the entire architecture that underpins the Good Friday Agreement. That is my very strong view.”
Mr Martin suggested a move to invoke Article 16 could have implications for the post-Brexit trade deal struck between the UK and the EU.
“The British government signed up to the protocol as condition of the trade cooperation agreement” he said.
“The trade cooperation agreement would not have been signed off by the European Union without the protocol having been signed off in advance.
“So the British government knowingly signed up to that.”
He said European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and president of the European Council Charles Michel had been “very clear in terms of the implications that would arise if such a decision was to be taken”.
He also revealed that US president Joe Biden had used the Cop26 conference to underline his support for the Irish peace process.
Mr Marin said: “At the Cop26 president Biden did ask for a brief conversation with me after one of the sessions, he called me over.
“He reiterated to me in the strongest possible terms, how the Good Friday Agreement matters very deeply to his administration, and to president Biden himself.
“He said to me that he had made this unequivocally clear to the British government.
Mr Martin hit out at the UK’s demands on the ECJ in response to efforts by the European Commission to ease the implementation of the Protocol.
— David Frost (@DavidGHFrost) October 29, 2021
He said proposals brought forward by the Commission’s vice president Maros Sefcovic “went beyond what many people thought the European Union would present”.
“In respect of SPS, for example, you’re looking at an 80 per cent reduction in checks, in respect of customs a massive reduction in checks, and in respect of medicines, a full solution to that and then said he’s open for discussions with people,” he added.
“The interaction between Maros Sefcovic and the main sectors in Northern Ireland confirmed that it was operational issues that concern them the most in terms of checks, and in terms of operation of the protocol.”
He continued: “To oppose the ECJ as a response to the Sefcovic proposals is very disingenuous, and simply wrong.
“Because anybody who knows about this knows that in respect of any issues that arise from the operation of the single market the ECJ has to be the governing body, that’s accepted.
“It’s in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland that they have access to the single market.”