First Minister of Northern Ireland and DUP leader, Arlene Foster has launched a petition calling on the government to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The move would ensure unfettered trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, removing the need for customs checks that were introduced following the end of the Brexit transition period.
The article is essentially a release mechanism from the full implementation of the Protocol, should it lead to serious “economic, societal or environmental difficulties” for Northern Ireland.
The petition, launched today, calls for the immediate removal of “any impediment or barrier to unfettered trade” within the UK internal market.
It states: “After just one month, Northern Ireland is suffering real economic and societal difficulties as a consequence of the Northern Ireland Protocol operating and creating new barriers to unfettered trade within the United Kingdom and disrupting supply lines of goods to Northern Ireland.
“The Government should use all the powers it has to move urgently to protect UK trade and to ensure all UK goods and produce can freely flow to and from every part of the United Kingdom.”
Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, DUP MP Sammy Wilson berated the border now in place on the Irish Sea and insisted citizens of Northern Ireland were no longer “experiecing the full benefits of being UK citizens”.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and European Commission Vice President for Interinstitutional Relations Maroš Šefčovič released a statement last night reiterating their “full commitment” to the “proper implementation of the Protocol” although reports suggest Mr Gove is calling for a longer two-year transition period on the Protocol’s full implementation.
Pressure has increased on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to take measures to relieve Northern Ireland of the Protocol after the European Commission itself invoked Article 16 last week, albeit briefly, in an attempt to impose a hard vaccine border on the island of Ireland.
The European Commission suffered a humiliating U-turn within hours after leaders on all sides of the Brexit debate expressed outrage over the Commission’s behaviour.