UK ‘absolutely’ prepared to suspend Northern Ireland protocol, says Kwasi Kwarteng

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People take part in a Loyalist protest in Newtownards, County Down, against the Northern Ireland Protocol (Brian Lawless/PA) (PA Archive)
People take part in a Loyalist protest in Newtownards, County Down, against the Northern Ireland Protocol (Brian Lawless/PA) (PA Archive)

Kwasi Kwarteng has repeated the UK’s threat to trigger article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol despite fears the EU could enact hard-hitting tariffs on British goods in response.

Speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge, the Business Secretary insisted the protocol - which estabished a trade border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain - was not working.

Asked if the Government was prepared to trigger article 16 of the deal to take unilateral action to suspend the protocol, Mr Kwarteng said: “Absolutely, throughout this whole debate many have said the Government has always been wrong and the EU is always been right.”

He added: “Political stability is our number one priority and if people say there will be no power sharing until it is changed, then we will do that.”

If the UK does suspend parts of the agreement, the EU has warned it enact tariffs on UK goods in retaliation for suspending the treaty.

Asked if the Government was willing to follow through with its threat if the prices of goods were to go up, Mr Kwarteng said “we have to be prepared to invoke article 16”.

Amid fears of a fall out with the EU, Tory MP Tobias Ellwood said: “Abandoning the Protocol is self-defeating. It plays into Sinn Fein’s narrative that a united, peaceful Ireland is better for Northern Ireland.

“It will provoke a trade war with the EU at a time when the UK has done so well in leading the European response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“And it will mean fewer movements of goods and higher inflation.”

The DUP has claimed it will not support the election of a party speaker in the Stormont Assembly unless the protcol is changed.

Doing so leaves the Stormont Assembly unable to function and comes after Sinn Fein became the largest party in Northern Ireland with 27 seats.

Outlining his reasons for blocking the election, Sir Jeffrey said: “As I have made clear this morning we have taken the decision not at this stage to support the election of a speaker.

“I believe that we need to send a very clear message to the European Union and to our Government that we are serious about getting this protocol sorted out.

“Because of the harm it is doing, undermining political stability, damaging the agreements that have formed the basis of political progress made in Northern Ireland, to our economy, contributing to the cost-of-living crisis, this matter needs to be dealt with.”

The Prime Minister will travel to Belfast on Monday amid the political crisis in the province.

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