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Political stability on island at risk as tensions rise over protocol​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Taoiseach says triggering Article 16 would be ‘reckless’


Warning: A sign on a lamppost in an estate in Co Antrim. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Warning: A sign on a lamppost in an estate in Co Antrim. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Warning: A sign on a lamppost in an estate in Co Antrim. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Political stability on the island of Ireland is at risk as tensions continue to escalate over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin hit out again at Britain insisting it would be “reckless and irresponsible” for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to trigger Article 16 of the protocol and spark a potential trade war with the EU.

Mr Martin’s comments came as hardline unionists with links to paramilitary group the UVF announced they were withdrawing support for the Good Friday Agreement due to the post-Brexit trade row.

The Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) said the consent principle, which is central to the Good Friday Agreement, had been undermined by Brexit’s Northern Ireland protocol. The comments follow a series of fire bomb attacks on public buses in the North.

Last night, Democratic Unionist Party leader Jeffrey Donaldson warned that unionist support for the political institutions at Stormont was “falling away” in the wake of the move by the PUP.

Meanwhile, Mr Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, along with Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney, met with officials in Government Buildings to get an update on the negotiations between the EU and UK around the protocol.

They heard negotiations are ongoing and will continue this week. “The view from Government is that the negotiations must be given every chance of coming to a resolution,” a spokesman said.

The Government and the EU are running out of patience with Britain over their demands for additional concessions during negotiations on the protocol.

The EU has conceded on a range of British demands around checks on goods but are now insisting Mr Johnson’s government cannot keep adding new issues to the talks.

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“This isn’t a negotiation, the deal was done last December. They signed it, made it law through Westminster and won an election calling it a great deal,” a Government source said.

Yesterday, the Taoiseach warned against “self-fulfilling prophecies” over a potential trade war if the UK triggers Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol to spark a Brexit showdown between London, Brussels and Dublin. He urged the UK government to match the “generosity of spirit” shown by the EU in trying to find a solution to Northern Ireland-related issues over Brexit.

He said the relationships between the UK, EU and Ireland had to be built on trust and said the triggering of Article 16 would be “a very serious issue”.

He said every effort should now be made to achieve a compromise, adding nothing was inevitable.

“I don’t think anything should be taken as inevitable in respect of the current talks on the protocol that are under way between the EU and UK government,” he said.

Mr Martin said people should not lightly speculate about trade wars between the UK, EU and Ireland given the potential consequences.

“We should be aware of self-fulfilling prophecies in that sense so nothing as I say is certain in that regard. We’ve been here before, negotiations are still underway, there is still engagement between the UK and the EU.

“I said in the Dáil last week and I stand over my comments, I think it would be reckless and irresponsible to trigger Article 16.

“But I do think and I believe that all parties need to take on board the fundamental importance of the relationship between the EU and the UK and the relationship between the Irish Government and the British government in terms of what has happened over the last 30 years – working with the parties in Northern Ireland to transform the lives of the people of Northern Ireland and nothing should be done in my view unilaterally that would endanger that architecture.”

Meanwhile, the PUP said there was “no basis” for unionists to continue to support the 1998 agreement.

Party leader Billy Hutchinson said the peace process flowing from the agreement had not faithfully observed the text of the accord and had instead led to an incremental weakening of the union by delivering concessions to nationalists.

Mr Hutchinson, a former UVF prisoner, said the principle of consent had been exposed as “little more than a deceptive snare”.

“It is my view that if, as is currently the case, the constitutional guarantee is not as was promised to the unionist community, then there is no basis for unionist support for the Belfast Agreement.”

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