Liz Truss urged to take nuclear option on Brexit to ‘focus minds’ in stubborn EU

Northern Ireland Protocol: 'We'll look for alternatives' says Truss

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Think tank boss Mark Littlewood said it would “focus minds” in the European Union if they thought the UK would take the nuclear option. Mr Littlewood’s comments come as the Foreign Secretary is due to meet European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic on Monday for further talks on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Mr Littlewood, director general of the Institute for Economic Affairs free market think tank, said: “I mean everything hinges on this incredibly thorny issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“And I hope this can be resolved, I think it can be resolved. But it requires a good dollop of goodwill on all sides. I’m not sure that there has been a surfeit of goodwill from the European Union in recent months.

“I think that there are quite easy technological solutions to this if only we are willing to embrace them that would allow the free flow of goods a lot more easily.

“But I think if we can’t find a workable solution then what the Foreign Secretary has intimated and I agree with is that we will have to trigger Article 16.

“It seems to me pretty unambiguous that this is causing damage socially and economically to the people of Northern Ireland.

“So as a final resort, I think we should be unapologetic about triggering Article 16. It seems to me all of the necessary evidence is there that would make that wholly justifiable.

“And perhaps if the European Union think that we might actually trigger it that will focus some minds and we can find an easier solution.

“I think we can get there and I think we will get there. I think the only question is whether this is done by sensible discussion and debate, or whether we have to do it unilaterally by triggering Article 16.”

Ms Truss held her first meeting with Mr Sefcovic earlier this month after taking over from Lord Frost following his resignation.

The Foreign Secretary refused to rule out the possibility the UK could invoke Article 16 – suspending part of the arrangements in the protocol – if they could not agree a way forward.

She said: “We have had constructive talks with the EU.

“We are now going to going into intensive negotiations to work towards a negotiated solution to sort out these very real issues for the people of Northern Ireland.

“I think there is a deal to be done. I do want to make progress.

“Clearly if we don’t make sufficient progress we will have to look at the alternatives, but my absolute desire is to get a deal that works for the people of Northern Ireland.”

The UK is seeking major changes to the protocol – which forms part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement – arguing that it is hampering the free movement of goods between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK and damaging community relations.

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