Brexit panic as advisor warns there will be trade war if EU does not budge on NI

Northern Ireland: UK ‘needs to trigger Article 16’ says Oulds

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has turned down Brussels’ latest attempt to solve problems with the post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland, insisting that the withdrawal agreement signed last year must be renegotiated. A series of proposals published by the European Commission on Monday were said to be “not enough” for the scale of the problems. A UK government spokesperson said the two sides instead needed “comprehensive and durable solutions”.

David Frost, the minister responsible for Brexit issues, has said that without a major change to the legal text of the Protocol, the government will consider triggering article 16 of the EU-UK agreement, which will suspend parts of the deal.

Such a move would be permitted where it can be shown that “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties” are arising.

However, the Commission would probably challenge such a decision, raising the risk of trade sanctions down the line.

In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, a Government trade adviser, who wishes to remain anonymous, has claimed a trade war between the two parties is definitely likely if the European bloc does not move off its opening bid.

He explained: “If the EU doesn’t move from its opening bid, it is incredibly difficult to see how there would be any solution.

“Obviously, it is a fundamental principle of the Protocol that Northern Ireland is in the UK’s customs union territory, and that has to mean something.

“If in fact it doesn’t mean anything, then, I think the UK will say ‘it doesn’t leave us any room to have a discussion because technically what you are doing, you are privileging the North South strand of the Good Friday Agreement over the East West strand which is not in compliance with the Good Friday Agreement’.

“I think they may be forced to say that.”

He added: “There will be a trade war if neither party moves off its opening bid.

“The person who has to give first here, though, is the EU because it precludes the UK’s range of movement in any way.

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“Also because the EU’s opening bid actually violates the Good Friday Agreement whereas the UK’s opening bid does not.

“All the UK’s opening bid does is open up the East West strand and it does nothing to damage the North South strand.

“So if your opening bid is damaging the Good Friday Agreement, then you have the obligation to move off first.

“And they don’t have to come off it very far, it is a slight movement which would allow negotiations to take place.”

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Dr Graham Gudgin, Policy Exchange’s chief economic adviser, warned Brussels against starting a trade war with Britain, as according to him, the bloc will have more to lose.

He wrote: “What if the EU took retaliatory actions under the withdrawal agreement?

“If these amounted to a trade war with tariffs or quotas on a selection of UK exports the UK could survive these.

“The EU has more to lose from a trade war because of the current imbalance of UK-EU trade.

“If the EU attempted to use other agreements, such as aircraft landing rights, the situation would be more serious, but since this would constitute a serious breach between friendly democratic neighbours it sounds too draconian to be applicable to a peripheral dispute about tiny amounts of trade on the island of Ireland. “

He added in his report for Briefings for Britain: “Number 10 is naturally keen not to get into these deep waters and hence the careful language of the command paper.

“It will seek to play this long, but with an Assembly election due in Northern Ireland next May, the timescale is not infinite.”

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