Joe Biden to wade in on Article 16 row: UK on brink of diplomatic conflict with US

Brexit: Obama discusses the future of the European Union

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With Brexit tensions between the UK and EU on a knife-edge, political expert and director European Centre for International Political Economy, David Henig warned the situation could become far worse. While the prospect of a trade war between Brussels and London looms large, Mr Henig pointed out that Washington could also be thrown into the mixer. And it could put the Prime Minister on a collision course with the US President, just as Mr Biden prepares to land on UK soil for COP26 in Glasgow.

Mr Henig said: “Given the potential consequences of triggering Article 16 include a trade war with the EU and diplomatic conflict with the US, we aren’t in a strong position.

“Though I suspect Government ministers may not say as much.”

The US President has repeated his stance on the Northern Ireland Protocol and support for the EU throughout Brexit talks.

During his time as US Vice President under Barack Obama, Mr Biden repeated his stance against Brexit and insisted it would have dire consequences for the UK.

Since the UK officially left the EU, the US President has also called for both sides to maintain the Northern Ireland Protocol to protect the Good Friday Agreement.

However, due to the issues related to trade in the province, Sky News reports the Prime Minister has assembled a committee to discuss the consequences of triggering Article 16.

The XO Cabinet has now been transformed into the GB(O) committee or Global Britain (O), inside Whitehall.

Although no decision has yet been made on using Article 16, UK officials have already discussed the process and consequences of doing so.

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Lord Frost has also held discussions with MPs to win over support for triggering Article 16.

UK officials are thought to have set the end of November as the deadline for discussions concerning the Protocol.

Westminster has long threatened to invoke Article 16 if the EU does not offer solutions to fixing trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Northern Ireland has been left in the EU’s single market and must apply the majority of the bloc’s customs checks for goods entering from Great Britain.

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Although the EU did offer a plan to remove checks for certain goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Lord Frost claimed the proposal did not go far enough this week.

He told the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee: “I’m not sure they would quite deliver the kind of ambitious freeing-up of trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland that we want to see, but what we’re trying to test is whether they could find the basis to go further than what they have put on the table.

“That’s the kind of discussions we have been having and it has been quite constructive so far, but the gaps between us remain significant, and there is a lot of working through to go.”

Article 16 allows either side to suspend parts of the agreement if undue harm is caused to trade.

Lord Frost claimed the threshold for using the procedure had already been met during the committee session.

He told MPs: “It’s highly unusual in an international treaty to have disputes settled in the court of one of the parties and that is the fundamental principle that we take into this, and the fundamental thing we need to remove from the arrangements going forward,

“It would be much better for stability, prosperity and certainty for everybody in Northern Ireland if we could reach an ambitious agreement with the EU that dealt with the problem because then we could move on and everyone would know where they stand. I’m still focusing on that.

“As we have said, we think the test for using article 16 is passed but we would still like to come to an agreed arrangement if we can, and that is what we are trying to do.”

EU officials arrived in the UK for talks over Northern Ireland as tensions between the parties continue to remain high.

If unsuccessful, it is thought the UK may enact Article 16 following the COP26 summit.

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