Sunday 9 January 2022

"I will trigger Article 16 if the EU does not cooperate" says Liz Truss

Liz Truss talks tough in today's Telegraph in a mild Truss Political Broadcast. Usual guff and dogwhistles, designed to show her leadership credentials and moisten the tweeded loins of Sid and Doris Smythe-Bonkers.

Amongst the highlights, Ms Truss stirringly claims "As a sovereign nation, we cannot be in a situation where we have to notify the EU to provide vital support to businesses" but also "we agreed with our European friends arrangements under our Trade and Cooperation Agreement - including on the control of subsidies."

A rather weary Joao Vale de Almeida, EU Ambassador, responded, "We've heard this before from the government, so we're not surprised. We are not too impressed. We still believe it's not very helpful that we keep agitating the issue of Article 16." Indeed.

Anyway, for those with nothing better to do, here's Truss Telegraph twaddle:

The union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland has proved itself time and time again. But so much of the progress we have seen in Northern Ireland rests upon the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, which secured peace and stability. I have seen how people's lives improved in Northern Ireland and Great Britain through sustained peace and prosperity.

This is why, having taken on EU negotiations, my absolute priority is to deal with the issues in the Protocol that could threaten these hard-won gains. Because in spite of our considerable efforts to make the Protocol work and our continued commitment to the principles on which it is founded, its unintended consequences are having a profound impact.

When I see Maroš Šefčovič this week for our first face-to-face talks, I'll be putting forward our constructive proposals to resolve the situation.

The current problems are myriad and manifest. Red tape means that anyone who wants to send a parcel to Northern Ireland from Great Britain would need to fill out a customs declaration to do so - if the rules were implemented in full. Families cannot take their pets with them when travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland without costly paperwork and unnecessary veterinary treatments. Northern Ireland's Jewish community has struggled to get kosher food.

Fundamentally, this is about the security of our communities, the needs of businesses and the integrity of our country. As it stands, the Protocol has lost the consent of the Unionist community over fears it is dividing Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. As a sovereign nation, we cannot be in a situation where we have to notify the EU to provide vital support to businesses - such as targeted tax breaks - in one part of our country.

At this critical time, it cannot be right for people in Northern Ireland to be denied vital products from the rest of the UK, and not to be able to make our own decisions on essential state functions - especially during this pandemic - such as approving critical medicines.

It is true that the EU has now recognised that there are problems which need to be resolved, but we will need to see greater movement.

Northern Ireland is not in the Single Market and shouldn't be treated as if it is. We are proposing a common-sense solution - goods going to the EU should go through customs formalities and those staying in the United Kingdom should not. That means no checks or documentation for goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland and staying there. We are happy to continue checking goods going on to the Republic of Ireland to protect the EU Single Market and to ensure there is no need for a hard border.

We are not asking for anything unreasonable. Our plan is a pragmatic compromise, underscored by robust enforcement, which we should all be able to embrace. Just as we agreed with our European friends arrangements under our Trade and Cooperation Agreement - including on the control of subsidies - that would be subject to the independent resolution of disputes, we should be able to reach a similar consensus on the need for independent arbitration here.

Independent arbitration is the international norm for such agreements and that is what we want to see. As I have said, we need to end the role of the European Court of Justice as the final arbiter of disputes.

I am prepared to work night and day to negotiate a solution. But let me be clear, 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.

My priority is to protect peace and stability in Northern Ireland. I want a negotiated solution but if we have to use legitimate provisions including Article 16, I am willing to do that. This safeguard clause was explicitly designed - and agreed to by all sides - to ease acute problems because of the sensitivity of the issues at play. The EU has already invoked this article to introduce a hard border for vaccine exports and, even in the act of withdrawing it, insisted on its right to do so again in the future.

I believe that the United Kingdom and the EU, as believers in freedom and democracy, are capable of working out a solution which delivers for the people of Northern Ireland. This will enable us to focus our energies on major external threats - such as Russia's aggressive activity towards Ukraine - and building our economies following this pandemic.

There is a deal to be done. By working together as sovereign equals, we can make it happen.


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