Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suggested to the House of Commons he could invoke Article 16 “to ensure that there is no barrier down the Irish Sea” after Brexit.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, DUP MP Ian Paisley said people in Northern Ireland were being made to “feel like foreigners in our own country” by post-Brexit rules.
He told the Commons: “Prime minister, you say that your commitment to Northern Ireland is unshakeable. But I speak for all of my constituents today when I tell you that the Protocol has betrayed us and has made us feel like foreigners in our country.
“Tea and sympathy will not cut the mustard. So what is the prime minister actually going to do when you realise that the EU will do nothing to help Northern Ireland? Will the prime minister use all of the instruments at his disposal, will he use if necessary his parliamentary majority, will he legislate if necessary to remove the impediments to trade in Northern Ireland and will he be a man of his word and allow businessmen in my constituency to bin the unnecessary documentation that he told us we could bin? Prime minister, be the unionist we need you to be.”
Johnson responded by claiming invoking Article 16 is an option.
He explained: “I utterly share the frustration of the honourable gentleman about the way the EU, in particular, the EU Commission, temporarily seemed to call to use the Protocol in such a way as to impose a border contrary to the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement, and contrary to the letter of the Good Friday Agreement, and we will do everything we need to do whether legislatively or indeed by invoking Article 16 of the Protocol to ensure that there is no barrier down the Irish Sea.
“The honourable gentleman’s business constituents, some of whom I know very well and admire very much, can continue to do business unfettered between Northern Ireland and the rest of this country.”
It comes minutes after Johnson criticised the EU for threatening to trigger Article 16 last week.
Johnson said: “I certainly agree with (SDLP MP Claire Hanna) that it was most regrettable that the EU should seem to cast doubt on the Good Friday Agreement, the principles of the peace process, by seeming to call for a border across the island of Ireland.
“I can tell her that we will work to ensure that there are no such borders, we will respect the peace process, and indeed no barriers down the Irish Sea, and that the principle of unfettered access across all parts of our United Kingdom is upheld.”