Truss urged to ‘send a strong message to Brussels’ in first days as PM in Brexit ultimatum
Brexit Britain still stuck in EU’s ‘lunar orbit’ says Ben Habib
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The drastic move would suspend some aspects of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the mechanism for preventing a hard border with the Irish Republic to the south. Critics including former Brexit Party MEP Mr Habib say it has instead resulted in a border down the Irish Sea. Now Government insiders have said Ms Truss, currently the frontrunner to replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, is ready to invoke Article 16, hence suspend the aspects of the Protocol to which the UK objects as an interim measure while legislation aimed at “fixing” the problems passes through Parliament.
Referring to former Brexit Minister Lord David Frost, Mr Habib told Express.co.uk: “Lord Frost declared a year ago the conditions existed to suspend the Northern Ireland Protocol, by invoking its Article 16.
“What he rightly acknowledged was that British citizens in NI were being economically impacted by the Protocol.“
Having recognised the inherent difficulties, the Government had been “duty bound to act” yet did nothing, Mr Habib said.
Liz Truss and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (Image: GETTY)
Ben Habib tweeted about the reports this morning (Image: Twitter)
He added: “It was a gross dereliction of duty and one which severely damaged unionists’ faith in Westminster.”
Mr Habib described Ms Truss’s Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which she has described as a “reasonable, practical solution” as a “welcome development”.
However, he said: “Even once passed, that Bill does not come into effect until reams of subsequent regulations are also passed.
Ben Habib is a former Brexit Party MEP (Image: GETTY)
“So it made no sense that Article 16 was again not invoked while the Bill and this additional legislation made their way onto the statute books.
“It was as if she was not serious about her own Bill.”
He continued: “Rumour has it she will now, at last, invoke Article 16 if she becomes Prime Minister.
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Boris Johnson will formally step down next month (Image: GETTY)
Lord David Frost, the former Brexit Minister (Image: GETTY)
That would absolutely be the right thing to do
“That would absolutely be the right thing to do. Suspending the Protocol would ameliorate the difficulties in Northern Ireland, send a strong message to Brussels and restore trust in government.
“It would set the tone of her premiership. She would reveal in one move that she is indeed the strong leader for whom the electorate yearns.”
Speaking to the Financial Times, an official close to Ms Truss said: “Some Government officials have raised concerns about issues coming down the track and have presented many options to ministers to deal with them.”
Liz Truss profile (Image: Express)
Her campaign says her preference is for “a negotiated solution” but that “there are serious problems with the Northern Ireland protocol which need fixing”.
Either party is permitted to trigger Article 16 if it is seen to be causing “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties” or a “diversion of trade”, although doing so is regarded as a last resort.
Speaking as she unveiled her legislation in June, Ms Truss said: “This Bill will uphold the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and support political stability in Northern Ireland. It will end the untenable situation where people in Northern Ireland are treated differently from the rest of the United Kingdom, and protect the supremacy of our courts and our territorial integrity.
“This is a reasonable, practical solution to the problems facing Northern Ireland. It will safeguard the EU Single Market and ensure there is no hard border on the island of Ireland.
Northern Ireland Protocol: Highly controversial in Northern Ireland (Image: GETTY)
“We are ready to deliver this through talks with the EU. But we can only make progress through negotiations if the EU are willing to change the Protocol itself – at the moment they aren’t. In the meantime, the serious situation in Northern Ireland means we cannot afford to allow the situation to drift.
“As the government of the whole United Kingdom, it is our duty to take the necessary steps to preserve peace and stability.”
The Bill has now passed its second reading in the Commons, but is likely to hit problems in the House of Lords.
The EU has warned any attempt to ditch the protocol would bring with it the threat of a trade war, and could even result in the bloc suspending the post-Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) signed at the end of 2021.