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Ireland warns EU could ditch entire Brexit deal if Johnson triggers Article 16

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney (File photo)

Ireland warns the European Union could abandon the entire Brexit agreement with the United Kingdom if British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ditches his agreement on Northern Ireland.

The UK has repeatedly threatened to trigger Article 16, which allows either side to take unilateral action if they deem the deal governing post-Brexit trade is badly impacting their interests.

Speaking on Sunday, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said any move to activate emergency measures under Article 16 and suspend the protocol would have “serious” consequences.

"All the evidence now suggests that the British government are laying the foundations to trigger Article 16, and that of course is a worry," Coveney said in an interview broadcast on RTE radio on Sunday.

Continuation of the UK-EU free trade agreement relies on the Northern Ireland deal continuing to operate, he said.

Suspending the agreement would have a negative impact on British businesses as they would face new tariffs and even worse terms than they have now outside the single market.

“I believe that if the British government essentially refuses to implement the protocol, even with the extraordinary flexibilities that are now on offer, and instead looks to set it aside then I think the EU will respond in a very serious way to that,” said Coveney.

“It means that the Trade and Cooperation Agreement that was agreed between the British government and the EU was contingent on the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, which includes the protocol.

“One is contingent on the other. So if one is being set aside, there is a danger that the other will also be set aside by the EU.”

The UK left the 27-nation bloc last year but has since delayed implementing some of the border checks between its province of Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland that the bloc insists London is obliged to under their divorce deal.

Britain argues the checks are disproportionate, stoking tensions in Northern Ireland, putting at risk a 1998 peace deal that ended three decades of sectarian strife.

In October, the European Commission proposed a package of measures to ease trade between Britain and Northern Ireland.  London dismissed the package, saying the measures do not go far enough, and it is currently refusing to accept oversight of the deal from the EU’s top court.

"I think the EU can go a little further on some of these issues and have indicated that their package is not the final word from the EU but they want the UK government to work with them," said Coveney.

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