Inside the EUs two retaliation plans if Britain triggers Article 16

EU’s reaction to triggering of Article 16 discussed by Parker

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Post-divorce relations between the EU and UK continue to worsen, with fisheries and Northern Ireland as the flashpoints for escalation of tensions. Britain’s Brexit negotiator Lord David Frost, who met European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic on Friday, has previously warned that triggering Article 16 is “very much on the table and had been since July”.

Such a move has been described as “colossally stupid”, by former prime minister Sir John Major.

But EU and Irish officials claim triggering Article 16 is becoming an increasingly likely option as Brussels and London fail to make significant progress towards a deal.

Now the bloc has threatened punitive action if Britain invokes Article 16, which would result in some parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol being suspended.

Last week, the European Commission vice-president warned of “serious consequences” if the UK triggered Article 16.

Mr Sefcovic said the move would be “serious for Northern Ireland as it would lead to instability and unpredictability”.

How would the EU retaliate if Britain triggered Article 16?

There are two main thoughts for how the bloc should retaliate if Article 16 were triggered.

One diplomat told Politico Playbook: “There is a consensus that London has gone too far.

The source added: “But we are not yet talking about a sanctions package” at today’s meeting.

The first avenue the EU might take is to wait and see what Prime Minister Boris Johnson does.

This move would mean the EU waits to see exactly how Mr Johnson proceeds and then retaliate accordingly.

Some EU officials wanting to pursue this process warn of “self-fulfilling prophecies” about a trade war – especially given Britain has yet to invoke Article 16.

However, there is another camp which wants to take stronger measures against London.

This group, led by France, wants to send a clear message to Britain and warn how much its actions will cost the nation.

The diplomat told Politico this camp and position is “gaining ground”.

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Even Germany, which has traditionally taken a more cautious approach when it comes to diplomacy, is now calling for stricter action.

Berlin is calling on the bloc to reimpose tariffs across the board rather than seek moderate retaliatory measures.

Many officials believe softer action would fail to dissuade Mr Johnson – and it would be more difficult to agree on as those types of measures would likely impact different EU countries to varying degrees.

However, suspending the EU-U.K. Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), would be fairer and could therefore be easier to agree.

If the European Union were to suspend only part of the TCA and keep other chapters, such as the part on citizens intact, this would mean imposing tariffs on the UK as if it were a third country such as the USA or China.

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