But economist Professor David Blake has said the UK must not fall into the trap of invoking the clause – which he warned would leave it at the mercy of the EU-controlled European Court of Justice (ECJ). Prof Blake, Professor of Economics at City at the University of London, used his latest article on the Briefings for Britain website to outline a seven-point strategy which he says Mr Johnson must put into place in order to amend both the Withdrawal Agreement and the protocol, the mechanism aimed at preventing a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Angry Unionist critics claim the latter has resulted in a border down the Irish Sea, hence cutting them off from the UK.
Prof Blake was speaking as speculation mounted that Mr Johnson was poised to trigger Article 16, thus suspending the protocol, possibly as soon as this week.
Speaking on Saturday, Tory MP David Jones, deputy chairman of the European Research Group (ERG) suggested there was a better than 50 percent chance of the Prime Minister doing so – but Prof Blake claimed if he did, he would be making a mistake.
He told Express.co.uk: “I believe the UK government should not formally trigger Article 16 since this invokes the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice which will never rule against the EU on whether the UK’s use of Article 16 is legal.
“Instead, the Government should use the principles of Article 16 but without formally invoking it, that is, whenever the implementation of the Protocol cause serious societal, economic, and/or environmental difficulties, the UK will implement safeguard measures to remedy those difficulties. It can do this immediately.”
The UK Government could simultaneously offer to work “cooperatively” with the EU, led by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, to ensure goods which did not satisfy EU regulations did not enter the single market via the Republic of Ireland, as was already the case with red diesel, Prof Blake said.
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“NI first, then Scotland, then Wales – leaving England as washed-up whale waiting to be reabsorbed into the EU as a final victory.
“This is all clearly laid out (if you read between the lines) in the 1942 Berlin plan for a European Economic Community which was explicitly hostile to Anglo-Saxon free enterprise and markets.”
In his Briefings blog, Prof Blake argued Mr Johnson needed a much more effective strategy for modifying the WA and NIP.
Specifically he said the Government must:
- Explain its case better by underlining its fundamental right as a sovereign state to withdraw from the bloc
- Explaining effectively how it is trying to implement the NIP in good faith rather than letting the EU “do all the running” and not challenged allegations of a “lack of trust”
- Point out to the EU that any retaliatory measures in response to a breach of the NIP must be proportionate
- Warn the EU if it does start a trade war over NI, the UK Government will retaliate by imposing tariffs on EU exports to the UK
- Recognise the importance of public opinion: Mr Blake said one of the reasons why the European Commission paused its legal action against the UK over the NIP on 28 July 2021 was that it was “intensely aware of the political dangers of being seen to come down too hard on the UK over the post-Brexit deal”
- Fully secure the UK’s energy and food supplies and drastically reduce its current dependence on the EU
- Be aware of the risks to the integrity of the whole United Kingdom unless the NIP is either implemented in a way that protects the UK internal market, or scrapped altogether
Former Treasury adviser Mujtaba Rahman believes the Cabinet is poised to act, tweeting: “I understand full Cabinet – chaired by @BorisJohnson – will discuss Article 16 for the first time end of next week (Thurs/Fri)”
Mr Jones, MP for Clwyd West, told Express.co.uk: “I actually think it is more likely than not that we will invoke Article 16. Frost was talking about it being done by December.
“I guess there’ll be some intense activity now.
“I think Frost will want to be seen to go the extra mile.
“But I do think these next few days are crucial.”