Johnson refuses to rule out triggering Article 16 of Brexit’s NI Protocol

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The Prime Minister was asked about Article 16 following a meeting with the German Chancellor at Downing Street. Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Boris Johnson has refused to rule out triggering Article 16 of Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol, and hinted at disagreement with the German Chancellor on the issue.

The Prime Minister described an “almost seamless harmony” between the UK and Germany on most issues during a briefing which focused mainly on support for Ukraine, but indicated the protocol was an area where there was friction.

Appearing alongside the German leader Olaf Scholz at a Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson said he had raised the issue.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz Credit: Ben Stansall/PA

Asked about Article 16, the PM told reporters: “We had discussion about this, as you can expect. It came up. I think I raised it.”

He went on to say the result of the discussion was “entirely predictable”.

He added: “The almost seamless harmony that you have observed between Britain and Germany today I would not wish in any way to interrupt by going into that any further.

“But what I will say is that, to answer your question ‘would we take that off the table?’ the use of Article 16, no clearly not, there is a problem.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives at 10 Downing Street Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

But he said the pair, who smiled and nodded along in agreement with each other at points throughout the briefing, are united on “virtually every other issue” of policy.

The protocol has created new economic barriers on trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Agreed by the UK and EU to ensure no hardening of the Irish land border post-Brexit, it has instead moved regulatory and customs checks to the Irish Sea, with Northern Ireland remaining in the EU single market for goods.

The region also applies the EU customs code at its ports.

Unionists and loyalists claim the arrangements have undermined the sovereignty of the UK and have demanded the UK triggers the protocol’s Article 16 mechanism to suspend its trading provisions.