Peter Robinson: ‘Don’t rule out triggering Article 16’ says former DUP leader
The UK government may still need to trigger Article 16 to get a deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol that unionists would back, former DUP leader Peter Robinson has said.
Writing in the News Letter, the former First Minister (pictured right) warns the EU that it will need to go “back to the drawing board” after fresh proposals to deal with the protocol were given an unenthusiastic response by unionists.
And in a stinging attack on the UUP leader Doug Beattie, Mr Robinson said it was “heresy” for any unionist to praise the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. He defended, instead, the DUP-backed St Andrew’s Agreement which had been criticised by the UUP leader at his party’s conference.
Meanwhile, the prospect of an imminent collapse of the powersharing government at Stormont appears to have receded following the opening of fresh negotiations on the protocol.
The current DUP leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, had warned last month that his party’s ministers could withdraw from the Executive “within weeks” unless action is taken on the Protocol.
But with talks due to continue between the UK and EU chief negotiators in Brussels today, a DUP source has said the prospect of a move to collapse the Assembly is unlikely in the immediate term.
UK Brexit negotiator Lord Frost is due to meet European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic in a bid to find a way out of the deadlock.
Mr Sefcovic held a series of meetings with Northern Ireland leaders yesterday, after outlining the EU’s proposals to solve the protocol issues on Wednesday. Also in today’s News Letter, a series of experts on trade give their view on the proposals put forward by Mr Sefcovic to break the deadlock.
An expert on agricultural trade described the proposals as “encouraging” but warned some of the biggest issues with the protocol would remain.
Experts on the trade of medicine across the Irish Sea have called for more detail. A logistics expert, meanwhile, said the EU proposals are welcome but warned “the devil is in the detail”.
And a senior economist has cast doubt on the true reduction in red tape required to move goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain that would result from the proposals outlined by the EU.