Boris forced to respond as ‘angry’ petition to trigger Brexit clause surges to 100k in 24h

Brexit: EU is playing ‘hardball’ with Northern Ireland says Hoey

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The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has called on the Government to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol following disruption at the border. More than 100,000 people signed the emergency order in the past 24 hours and a debate in the House of Commons has been triggered for later this month.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said people were “very angry” about the Protocol and unionists has raised concerns about how it was being interpreted by the Westminster and Brussels.

The treaty ensures there is no hard border on the Island of Ireland by keeping Northern Ireland in the EU single market and customs union.

However since January, it has resulted in an increased number of checks on goods being transported from Europe via Northern Ireland and into Great Britain.

Article 16 of the Protocol allows either side to unilaterally suspend parts of the agreement which are deemed to cause economic, societal or environmental problems.

The EU sparked fury last moth after it temporarily triggered Article 16 amid a row over vaccines.

Brussels quickly backtracked and withdrew the move after a furious response from Ireland and the UK who were not informed in advanced.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove and the European Commission’s vice president Maros Sefcovic held talks on Thursday night over the Protocol.

Both parties said the treaty would continue to be implemented but agreed to look for a solution.

Speaking today, Ms Foster said there needed to be “recognition in London, Dublin and Brussels that damage has been done by this protocol and therefore we have to deal with it”.

The First Minister added there need to be unfettered trade in the UK and called for “permanent solutions, not sticking plasters”.

Ms Foster said the Belfast Agreement has three parts, the parties in Northern Ireland, the North/South dimension and the East/West dimension.

She added: “Once you start damaging one of those strands of the Belfast Agreement, then it does have an impact on the overall operation and I have been saying that for some time.

“People need to listen to what we’re saying, they need to take heed of what is being said by the unionist community and I hope that the message is being heard in London, and in Dublin and Brussels because we need to deal with this issue and deal with it quickly.”

The petition was launched on Thursday and Ms Foster said the response showed how big the issue has become for the UK.

She said: “I think it was an indication of how strongly so many people right across the United Kingdom felt about the issue that that petition took off in the way that it did.”

Following talks in London yesterday, Mr Gove and Mr Sefcovic reiterated their “full commitment” to the contentious Northern Ireland Protocol.

In a joint statement, the pair said they had a “frank but constructive discussion” and agreed to “spare no effort” in implementing solutions.

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They also agreed to convene the joint committee no later than February 24 to provide “the necessary political steer” and insisted this would be conducted “in the spirit of collaboration, responsibility and pragmatism”.

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney described the meeting as a “good day’s work”.

In a post on Twitter, he wrote: “Focus now is on EU/UK cooperation to implement what’s been agreed in Protocol & to work on solutions to outstanding issues linked to implementation.

“We continue to listen & do what we can to support businesses in NI. Thank u Maros Sefcovic and Michael Gove”.

MPs will debate Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol in the House of Commons on February 22.

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