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UK to trigger Article 16?

by Frank Schnittger Thu Nov 4th, 2021 at 08:41:10 PM EST

Growing fears that British government will shortly invoke article 16 of protocol

There are growing fears in Dublin and Brussels that the British government will shortly invoke article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol, a move that officials say would plunge EU-UK relations, and British-Irish ties, into deep crisis.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin issued an unprecedentedly blunt warning to the British government in the Dáil on Wednesday, describing any move to trigger article 16 as "irresponsible . . . unwise . . . reckless", and saying that it would have "far-reaching implications" for the relationship between Dublin and London.


However, Irish officials fear that the triggering of article 16 could rupture relations between the two sides and lead to retaliatory action from the EU, ultimately triggering suspension of the free trade agreement and the introduction of tariffs between the EU and UK.

Whatever reasons the UK may put forward for triggering Article 16, they have little to do with any real difficulties with the protocol or with what the people of Northern Ireland actually want.

A Northern Irish newspaper, The Irish News has just printed my letter to the editor in full as their lead letter on their letters page:

Is there no low to which Boris Johnson's government cannot sink?

The disconnect between British British government policy and rhetoric and what the people of Northern Ireland actually want grows ever wider.

The ground is shifting under Lord Frost's feet, and he doesn't have a democratic leg to stand on in his stand-off with the EU (not that he was ever elected to anything in the first place).

A survey carried out by pollster LucidTalk for a Queen's University study has found that 52 per cent of Northern Ireland adults think the Protocol is, on balance, "a good thing" for Northern Ireland, compared with 43 per cent in a similar survey in June. The percentage of respondents who agreed the Protocol provided Northern Ireland with a "unique set of post-Brexit economic opportunities" that could be beneficial also rose to 62 per cent, compared with 57 per cent in June. Even more remarkably, 87 per cent of respondents said they distrusted the British government's ability to manage Northern Ireland's interests regarding the Protocol. With the DUP currently languishing at 13 per cent in the polls, it means that virtually every single adult in Northern Ireland bar their allies, the DUP, now distrusts the British government.

The British government is delaying legislation, agreed by all the northern parties, which would make it more difficult to collapse the power sharing institutions. In Newton Emerson's view (October 28) this is so that they can use the threat of a collapse of the institutions as an excuse to trigger Article 16 of the Protocol in their dispute with the EU.

Naomi Long has testified to a Westminster parliamentary committee that the Johnson government is using Northern Ireland as a political football in its dispute with the EU, while Alexandra Hall Hall, the lead Brexit envoy to the US, quit her job because she was unwilling to "peddle half-truths on behalf of a government I do not trust" and which had instructed her to downplay the consequences of Brexit for the delicate peace process in Northern Ireland.

That the British government could play fast and loose with the Belfast Agreement institutions in a bid to further its dispute with the EU on entirely spurious grounds is a measure of just how despicable these people are.

That even most unionists now believe they are being used in a dispute not of their making shows how transparent and obvious this perfidy has become. Is there no low to which Boris Johnson's government cannot sink?

An edited version of the letter above was also published by the Irish Independent as their lead letter and remains one of the most read letters on their letters page a week after being published.

An independent Northern Ireland politic website, Slugger O'Toole today published a report which also pointed to a growing consensus within Northern Ireland in favour of the Protocol. (I have queried them as to why the report has since been taken down). [Update: SluggerO'Toole have published a new report on the survey here]

There is inter-community consensus for the NI Protocol mitigations proposed by the EU and UK government according to a new survey undertaken by the University of Liverpool.

Indeed, the survey completed in mid to late October 2021 and comprising over 1000 participants across all council areas, not only showed wide-ranging agreement for pragmatic solutions, it indicated that the Protocol is simply not a top priority for most people in Northern Ireland.

This will be sobering reading for those who have sought to either raise tensions, make political capital or exaggerate community discord over an issue that has dominated our political debates and news channels over the last year.

Professor Peter Shirlow Director of the Institute of Irish Studies, who led the study, commented,

    `It is evident that respondents seek proportionality in North-South and East-West trade relationships. There is no evidence here of mass rejection, even among unionists, of the mitigations/easements advanced by the EU. Similarly, there is no nationalist/republican rejection of key UK government proposals. This is not what is assumed within media and political commentary.'

Professor Shirlow goes on to describe the deep-seated healing process that is currently taking place and highlight the risks of reading too much into simplified social media comment on the subject, he said,

    `The inter-community consensus located within this report is a point of renewal for ongoing mitigations, and confirmation that resolution will further develop that societal consensus and social cohesion. Complex issues cannot be reduced to sound bites, Tweets and headlines.'

Interestingly, the survey data also indicated that there is little evidence that would support invoking Article 16 for reasons of inter-community strife.

The UK government has continually threatened to suspend the Protocol unless the EU takes their demands seriously and they show more flexibility in the negotiations.

However, the results of this latest survey indicate that the UK gov can no longer use any perceived or widespread societal discord as one of the reasons to carry out this action unilaterally.

For example, the survey found that there was a high level of community agreement on practical solutions, with only 5.6% of those surveyed opposed to the EU's proposals on pharmaceuticals. 80.7% of nationalists, 71.9% of unionists and 66.5% of neither supported the EU's proposal to resolve this difficulty.

Furthermore, the actions of the business community have been highly commended, with 75% of those surveyed agreeing that business leaders had proposed positive ideas and solutions and helped to ease tensions.

The author of the report, Brian Pope, goes on to discuss the political context and implications of the survey:

The Liverpool University survey also included an opportunity to investigate vote intentions on the run-up to the next NI Assembly elections and constitutional preferences.

Firstly, there was a strong consensus across the communities that the NI Assembly and Executive should remain in place until the proposed elections next May, 65% of those surveyed agreed, whilst only 9.6% disagreed.

In terms of priorities, nearly 60% of respondents said that Health, Covid Recovery and the Economy was their number one priority, with only just over 9% opting to choose the NI Protocol.

When asked what respondent's 1st preference voting intentions were for the next Assembly election it was the Alliance Party who showed the greatest projected growth since the 2017 Assembly vote - with a predicted 8.2% increase over this period.

In the survey, Sinn Fein was predicted to be the largest party with 23.0% but were down 4.4% since the 2017 Assembly elections. The DUP defied some recent polls, with a 20.6% share of the vote and the Alliance Party was third on 17.3%. And the UUP and SDLP remained roughly on the same share of the vote that they achieved in 2017 [13% and 12% respectively - my edit]. The TUV on 5.6%, with a 3.0% increase from 2017, and the Greens on a 3.9% vote share.

Overall, this survey, undertaken by the Institute of Irish Studies at the University of Liverpool, will be welcomed by those wanting consensus on the NI Protocol and across all communities in Northern Ireland.

The data certainly doesn't indicate a widening divide, and in fact, shows a willingness of most people to support the initiatives by both the EU and UK government to reach an agreement and find pragmatic solutions to the problems created by the Protocol.

Also, those who have endeavoured to accentuate cross-community splits over the Protocol, for whatever reason or purpose, should reflect upon these findings.

The introduction of this new empirical data on our society's attitude to the NI Protocol is a welcome and timely addition to the current debate.

The question which arises from this study and the earlier Lucidtalk survey for Queens University quoted in my letter, is why is the UK government continuing to hype up the prospect of invoking Article 16, the risk of inter-communal violence in Northern Ireland, and the possible breakdown of the Good Friday Agreement power sharing institutions when there is so little support for any of this in Northern Ireland itself?

Only the DUP and TUV currently support this approach, and their support figures in both surveys make up only a combined 26% of the electorate in N. Ireland. Can Boris Johnson really be so invested in supporting the DUP because they assisted his rise to power by defeating Theresa May's Brexit proposals?

The interesting point based on these poll numbers is that Sinn Fein is still poised to become the largest party in Northern Ireland and entitled to the First Minister role. And the Alliance Party, despite being 3% behind the DUP in first preference votes, could yet emerge as the largest unionist party as it is far more likely to attract lower preference votes from voters who gave their first preference vote to the Ulster Unionist, SDLP, and Green parties.

Boris Johnson and David Frost will look very foolish indeed if the DUP loses not only the First Minister role to Sinn Fein, but the Deputy First Minster role to the Alliance party, and with it a resounding majority for the Protocol within the Northern Ireland Assembly itself.

And why would the UK government risk a trade war with the EU, a breakdown in Irish and US bilateral relations, and the collapse of the Good Friday Agreement institutions within N. Ireland just because they don't want the ECJ to have any jurisdiction in N. Ireland?

The only explanation I can offer is that Boris Johnson needs a forever war with the EU in order to keep his Tory supporters and voters in line. But the UK is going to pay a very high price for this, and hardline unionism seems consumed with a death wish.

UK meat firms exporting animals to Republic for butchering
British meat producers have begun exporting beef carcasses to the Republic for butchering before reimporting them, due to labour shortages in the wake of Brexit, the British Meat Processors Association said.

Beef carcasses have been put on lorries and sent by ferry to the Republic to cutting and packing plants to be butchered and then brought back to Britain, the association's chief executive Nick Allen said.

"Due to the shortage of meat workers in the UK and the limitations to recruit caused by the immigration policy, processors are taking advantage of the fact that other countries are sourcing extra labour from around the world and exporting meat to be processed and returned to this country," Mr Allen said.

"Whilst it is an added cost, it is a better option than empty shelves and animals building up on the farms," he said.

There is a 15 per cent staff shortage across many meat plants in the UK, climbing as high as 20 per cent in some cases, Mr Allen said. The UK beef sector needs to fill 15,000 vacancies, a majority of them skilled or semi-skilled, he added.

Last month the British government agreed to issue 800 temporary visas for butchers to work in the UK for six months, but the government has not said how many applications have been made. - Reuters

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Nov 4th, 2021 at 08:56:43 PM EST
I'm not Irish so I can't speak for the Republic.
If I were I'd say, "Damn the Torpedoes! Full speed ahead! Damn Brits want a war, We'll give them a war."

Not cerebral, but sincerely from the gut.

by StillInTheWilderness on Thu Nov 4th, 2021 at 11:24:50 PM EST
It was these kind of national rivalries and gut reactions which the EU was designed and dedicated to avoid, which is why Boris Johnson has gotten away with provoking and gaming the EU for so long.

But Macron has elections coming up and Frau Merkel is (almost) no more. The folk memories of the destruction wrought by competing nationalisms is beginning to fade.

The EU, too, has issues which it might wish to distract the populace from - Covid -19, climate change, Poland, Hungary, regional tensions, the rule of law and immigration. It might suit some to gin up a trade war with the UK as a common enemy.

What better way to deprive UK companies of their market shares within the EU? Of course EU companies would lose market share in the UK as well, but that is hardly a major focus for the vast majority of them.

Only the Irish economy remains heavily intertwined with the UK economy, but that is rapidly diminishing too, with UK/Ireland trade declining as a % of Ireland's total trade from about 70% in 1973, to about 10% now.

The UK traditionally had its largest trade surplus with any country in the World with Ireland. That surplus has vanished and has been replaced by a deficit in the past 9 months.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Nov 4th, 2021 at 11:57:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"The UK traditionally had its largest trade surplus with any country in the World with Ireland. "
That is typical of Empires and Colonies. Acknowledging that I may be biased by my growing up with Irish-Americans. The Irish immigrants to America were typically those with the most hate for England.  

Dick Bolger was one of my grade school classmates. He lived at the end of the block. His father would not allow the words England or English to be uttered in his house.

I think I have a feel for it. I once expounded to my good friend and co-worker Doug Kennedy on the similarities of Ireland and Sicily. Both islands with internal squabbles. Both subjugated for centuries by foreign powers. Both with internal revolutionary/criminal secret societies. There was more but I don't have a Guiness in front of me to stimulate thought.  (Ireland has prettier girls, though)

by StillInTheWilderness on Fri Nov 5th, 2021 at 12:28:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Slugger O'Toole has just published a new report of the University of Liverpool study. The Slugger O'Toole report is here, and the University of Liverpool survey results are here.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 5th, 2021 at 12:26:48 AM EST
Sanity by the public!

Overall the survey indicates that there is huge scope for some form of popular compromise, without forcing another crisis by either hastily downing Stormont or prematurely calling Article 16.

Recently democracy is held hostage by the extremes and is not functioning in leading.  See the US and Western Europe. Authoritarian states overall are run by extremists. In both the gap of confidence (distrust) with the electorate is steadily increasing. Always an uprising or revolution around the corner, government oppression measures are in place.

Turns out Nationalist voters are far less hung up about living on the UK than the politicians they vote for, possibly because they live in a world where unionist voters are their friends/neighbours/workmates.

It's clear politicians are center whether to feed extremism, choice for war or peace. Right now the voter won't have none of it.

'The Politics of Truth': The U.K. Overseas Operations Act

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Fri Nov 5th, 2021 at 07:54:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EU issues toughest warning yet as talks with UK remain stalled on Northern Ireland protocol

There will be "serious consequences" if the UK triggers Article 16, European Commission (EC) Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič has warned.

Mr Sefcovic said the move would be "serious for Northern Ireland as it would lead to instability and unpredictability".

His comments follow a meeting with the UK's Brexit minister in Brussels over the protocol dispute.

Lord Frost said progress at the meeting was "limited".

Press statement by European Commission Vice-President Maros SEFCOVIC following his meeting with David Frost

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Fri Nov 5th, 2021 at 05:38:50 PM EST
Word on the street is that Johnson & Co are waiting for the end of Global Britain COP26 and for the US President, Joe "I'm Irish" Biden, to fly back to DC before pulling the trigger. We'll find out soon enough.
by Bernard (bernard) on Fri Nov 5th, 2021 at 05:56:26 PM EST
by Cat on Fri Nov 5th, 2021 at 07:35:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Boris Johnson needs a forever war with the EU in order to keep his Tory supporters and voters in line. But the UK is going to pay a very high price for this, and hardline unionism seems consumed with a death wish.
Populist politics often comes with a high price, nothing new.
by asdf on Fri Nov 5th, 2021 at 06:43:30 PM EST
Major warns against `colossally stupid' triggering of Article 16
British prime minister Boris Johnson has been warned by Sir John Major that suspending parts of Northern Ireland's Brexit deal would be dangerous and "colossally stupid".

Former prime minister Sir John said the move would damage relations with the European Union and the United States and could further destabilise Northern Ireland.

Seems almost as if Major is trying to goad Johnson into triggering A.16. After all Major is a hate figure for Brexiteers.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Nov 6th, 2021 at 05:19:47 PM EST
Also, since when does "colossally stupid" stop a politician from doing something?
by asdf on Sun Nov 7th, 2021 at 01:18:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EU may shelve free-trade pact with UK if article 16 deployed
The European Union may set aside the free-trade agreement with the United Kingdom if London triggers article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol and suspends its operation, according to Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.

Mr Coveney said the EU "would respond in a very serious way" if the UK invokes article 16 of the protocol, effectively putting on hold the operation agreement on Northern Ireland between the EU and the UK.

He said the free-trade agreement between the two depends on the protocol being operated by London.

"One is contingent on the other. So that if one is being set aside, there is a danger that the other will also be set aside by the EU," Mr Coveney told RTÉ's This Week programme. He said he hoped the dispute would not escalate into a trade war between the two, but that the EU would conclude that the UK is not operating in good faith if article 16 is invoked.

He said he needed to be blunt in his warnings to London that suspension of the protocol would not be viewed as a minor issue by the EU. Mr Coveney added that the British government should not underestimate the impact in Brussels of triggering article 16.

He said it is not a "technical issue" but would be seen in Brussels as "deliberately forcing a breakdown in relations and negotiations between the two sides".

Mr Coveney added: "I think they are deliberately asking for what they know they can't get." He said of the British approach to the talks that "the negotiating tactic of the prime minister and [UK chief Brexit negotiator] Lord Frost has been very consistent - it has been to offer nothing, [but] to continually ask for more".

Mr Coveney said it is "increasingly the view across the EU" that the British side is seeking to collapse negotiations. The British government, he said, is seeking to "rewrite the protocol entirely when they know that the EU can't, and won't, do that".

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Nov 7th, 2021 at 07:54:03 PM EST

Rathcoole bus attack: DUP's Donaldson urges ringleaders to 'step back' following latest hijacking

PUP withdraws support for Good Friday deal .... again??

Loyalist paramilitary organisations have told UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson they are withdrawing support for Northern Ireland's historic peace agreement | March 4, 2020 |

Johnson blackmailed by NI Loyalists and has no answer? Pull the rest of Global Britain out of the EU trade deal? Suits the Tories fine ... `tis all the fault of Brussels 😡

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Mon Nov 8th, 2021 at 09:55:42 AM EST
Bonfire in Belfast celebrating Protestant identity ...

Will Brexit Bring the Troubles Back to Northern Ireland? | NY Times |

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Mon Nov 8th, 2021 at 10:02:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]

The COP26 wraps up this Friday.

by Bernard (bernard) on Wed Nov 10th, 2021 at 06:35:59 PM EST
Good to see them being proactive.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Thu Nov 11th, 2021 at 09:26:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Barclays Report: A new dawn for the UK food supply chains?

New tariffs of £9.3bn per year could be imposed on food and drink imports from the EU

Food scarcity fears prompt plan to ease post-Brexit checks on EU imports | The Guardian - March 2021 |

Will Šefčovič  Deliver Retaliatory Package Friday?

DUP threat to collapse Stormont over NI Protocol on hold for a few more 'weeks'

UK vows action if 'French don't back down' in post-Brexit fishing rights row

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Wed Nov 10th, 2021 at 06:37:01 PM EST
EU needs to hold firm.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Thu Nov 11th, 2021 at 09:28:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Autumn 2021 Economic Forecast: From recovery to expansion, amid headwinds

How is Global Britain doing? Ireland expects a growth of 17,4% in 2021 (Big Tech and Financials?), however unemployment is above many EU countries doing a better job.

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Thu Nov 11th, 2021 at 09:36:33 PM EST
Doesn't matter what the overall average number is. A bunch of Docklands financial people moving to Frankfurt or whatever pulls down the average but has nothing to do with what a semi-skilled worker experiences.

What will make a difference to the working class is their own personal employment situation, the availability of groceries and fuel, and the latest football score. I would guess government programs for food and fuel subsidies will be coming along in a few months.

by asdf on Thu Nov 11th, 2021 at 11:55:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]

The British calculation is that member states will be united in making a fuss in public but much less aggressive in practice. London believes that the Irish and French are isolated and that the Dutch, Germans and Poles will oppose any suspension of the UK-EU trade deal.

While it is true that persisting Brexit issues create the risk of "Irish fatigue" -- something that Dublin is acutely aware of -- the UK government's assessment of potential EU splits is mistaken.

First, its characterisation of the German and Dutch position is simply wrong. Second, Poland understands that it cannot expect the EU's support over its borders with Belarus and not support Ireland over its border issues with the UK.


Brussels and member states are also exploring more subtle, legally creative ways to strike immediately against the UK, without waiting months for arbitration or a European Court of Justice ruling. This could involve tariffs on sensitive UK goods, putting London under pressure to respond in kind. An explosion might be difficult to control.

I have seen a lot of that "French/Dutch isolated in EU" stuff in the British English press. Heck, even within the supposedly pan-European Politico.eu, the London based staff doesn't have the same reading as the Brussels based one about possible EU retaliation, should the UK pull the trigger on article 16.

But the EU institutions and meetings are in Brussels, not London. And the EU has proven to be strongly united in the face of an existential threat.

by Bernard (bernard) on Wed Nov 17th, 2021 at 06:58:04 PM EST
Dogger Bank: UK Picking a Fight with Denmark

What is the real deal with fisheries, sustainability and Dogger Bank??

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Wed Nov 17th, 2021 at 08:32:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When I look at Swedish papers, Brexit is pretty much gone as a topic. Searching for news articles relating to Brexits gives most hits weeks or months ago. The North Ireland tussle is possibly mentioned in a small article at the bottom of page 14.

Why would the Swedish cabinet - busy with lots of things more interesting and important than the already over and done with Brexit - spend any time or political capital on arguing against the countries within the EU that actually has reasons to have strong opinions on this? I would be surprised if this didn't go for most EU states.

by fjallstrom on Tue Nov 23rd, 2021 at 09:51:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What most Brits, brexiters and remainers alike, fail to understand is that Brexit is no longer front page issue in the EU. The main pan-European focus for the past weeks has been the situation at the Belarusian border; plus the new wave of COVID picking up throughout the continent.

The main exception would be the Republic of Ireland, because of the NI issue, and the fishing communities from France to Denmark, that have seen their fishing licenses taken away. But fishing is 0.06% of French GDP, so it's not going to get the full focus of the French cabinet either.

by Bernard (bernard) on Wed Nov 24th, 2021 at 05:30:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Except if Macron needs a boost in the polls to see off his far right nationalist opponents. Then he can blow up the fishing issue as if Franc's pride and dignity is at stake: 0.06% of GDP or 6%, it hardly matters, except that at 0.06%, it is a low cost almost risk free way of playing the strong man. Equally France can feel virtuous sticking up for poor little Ireland, and give the Rosbifs one in the eye at the same time.

Boris is playing a dangerous game poking the EU bear.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Nov 24th, 2021 at 10:29:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Bernard (bernard) on Fri Nov 19th, 2021 at 08:59:26 PM EST
by asdf on Tue Nov 23rd, 2021 at 03:52:24 PM EST

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Tue Nov 23rd, 2021 at 07:23:45 PM EST

Après Saint-Malo, les pêcheurs bloquent les accès aux ports de Calais et Ouistreham

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Fri Nov 26th, 2021 at 12:54:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Fri Nov 26th, 2021 at 04:45:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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