The Herald

The UK is well within its rights to fight the EU on NI Protocol


THERE is another side to the current dispute between the UK and the EU (“Truss reveals new law to dismantle part of EU trade deal”, The Herald, May 18), ignored by your correspond­ents (Letters, May 17 & 18) who do not even mention the protocol’s

Article 16, which was carefully drafted and agreed by both parties. I trust they are not among those whose default position is that, in any UK dispute with the EU, it’s always the UK which is wrong?

Article 16’s sole raison d’etre is precisely to resolve UK/EU disputes – and it was of course invoked by the EU in Ursula von der Leyen’s vaccine tantrum in early 2021.

It is not a question of “tearing up or reneging on” the protocol but of how it is operated in practice. Article 16 specifical­ly allows either party “to introduce temporary safeguard measures to protect its economy and society, if the applicatio­n of the Protocol leads to serious economic, societal or environmen­tal difficulti­es that are liable to persist or to diversion of trade”. The evidence leaves no doubt that such difficulti­es and diversions have occurred.

Trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland equates to well below 0.01 per cent of the EU’S GDP, yet Brussels insists on implementi­ng around 20% of all its external-border checks on goods, on that miniscule fraction – of which even less is at risk of being transferre­d illegally into the Republic of Ireland.

Until June 2017, under the then Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny, the UK and Ireland co-operated closely in developing sensible electronic off-border checks and controls; and the EU itself was reported to have published a similar solution. Mr Kenny was then replaced by Leo Varadkar, Theresa May lost her majority and authority in her totally unnecessar­y General Election, and Ireland and the EU decided to weaponise the border issue, resulting in Mrs May’s backstop and then Boris Johnson being forced to accept the Irish Sea border, but fortunatel­y with Article 16’s safeguard, in order to achieve any sort of Brexit whatever.

Lord Frost and Liz Truss have proposed sensible changes to the EU’S demands; “good faith” is required by both sides, but if it requires the UK to invoke Article 16 to achieve them, with infinitely greater justificat­ion than Ms von der Leyen had, then so be it.

John Birkett, St Andrews.

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