Brussels must help find a way to resolve issues with the Northern Ireland protocol within three months or the UK will look for ways around it, ministers are expected to say on Wednesday.

In joint statements in the House of Commons and the House of Lords, Lord Frost and Brandon Lewis are likely to point out that the province needs arrangements because protocol is not working.

Ministers are not going to tear up the Brexit deal at this stage, unilaterally invoking Article 16 of the protocol, as the European Union briefly did in January in a row on access to Covid-19 vaccines.

The Brexit Minister and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland should call for a ‘new balance’ so that goods can flow as freely as possible between the two customs territories, then threaten to invoke Article 16s’ there is no progress by September 30.

A Whitehall source said ministers should make it clear that protocol talks are now in the “faint hope room” and stress that invocation of Article 16 is not ruled out.

Boris Johnson, who is secluding himself in his country Checkers mansion, pleaded for the UK to have the protocol revised in a phone call with Micheal Martin, the Taoiseach, on Tuesday.

Protocol causing “significant disruption”

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister has underlined that the way the protocol is currently working is causing significant disruption for the people of Northern Ireland.

“He made clear the UK government’s commitment to protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in all its dimensions. He said the EU had to be pragmatic and that solutions had to be found to address the serious challenges that arose with the protocol.

The protocol was agreed between the UK and the EU to keep trade flowing on the island of Ireland and avoid checkpoints.

This means that Northern Ireland has a different status from other UK countries by remaining within the EU customs union and single market for goods.

Article 16 can be invoked when the Protocol is considered to cause serious “economic, societal or environmental hardship”.

The UK has criticized the EU for using disproportionate controls in the Irish Sea between Britain and Northern Ireland, which slowed the arrival of goods into the province.

The government has complained that the EU carries out 20 percent of all its external border checks across the entire trade bloc at the so-called “maritime border” in the Irish Sea.

Hard-line Brexit supporters call for new law

Tory Brexiteer and DUP MPs want the government to take strong action to address the issues surrounding the protocol, such as a new law in parliament to replace the protocol.

A suggestion in Westminster on Tuesday was that ministers would threaten to introduce legislation to Parliament to replace the protocol, although this was strongly denied by sources in Downing Street.

A Tory Brexiteer MP said the invocation of Article 16 invited the risk of retaliatory action from the EU, adding: “Why not completely break the impasse and just legislate?”

Maros Sefcovic, the EU’s Brexit negotiator who also had talks with Lord Frost on Tuesday, is said to have pressured DUP representatives in a meeting on Monday if he knew what the UK had planned.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, DUP chief, said: “The protocol didn’t work. Even those who have supported its rigorous implementation recognize this. The resulting barriers and distortions to trade within the UK internal market must be removed, not replaced.

“We have urged the UK government to do this. The government and the EU must now renegotiate. If the EU is unwilling to recognize the damage caused by the protocol, the UK government must take appropriate unilateral action using Article 16. “


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