Sefcovic demands UK ‘stop blame game’ as he admits Article 16 triggered by mistake

Brexit: Attempt to trigger Article 16 a ‘mistake’ says Sefcovic

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Maros Sefcovic has been meeting with Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove to fix issues that have arisen from the Northern Ireland Protocol. Tensions in the country boiled over when the EU triggered Article 16 which led to graffiti being drawn near Belfast ports threatening border staff, allegedly by Irish loyalists. Mr Sefcovic said in a committee meeting today that the UK should stop its “blame game” and admitted the Brexit article triggering was a mistake. 

Mr Sefcovic said: “I think I have to repeat it again, that no decision was taken. 

“No Article 16 was activated, that it was a draft proposal, which was then quickly corrected and I think that it would be better not to engage anymore in the blame game.

“Where I think, (we should) acknowledge the mistake was made, we apologised for that.

“And I think that now it’s very important to really look into the future, how can we constructively work together to make sure that we will guarantee the people of Ireland and Northern Ireland, all the benefits of the Protocol.

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“And all the possibilities which the protocol is presenting for new business opportunities for new jobs and I believe also economic growth.”

The EU negotiator has been speaking with Mr Gove over goods delays between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. 

Supermarkets and normal commercial deliveries have been delayed as goods are checked according to EU Customs Union rules. 

This is because Northern Ireland is still part of the EU Customs Union as was agreed in the Protocol.

Mr Gove called for an extension to the grace period to 2023, which suspends some border checks, but this was denied. 

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Instead, Mr Sefcovic has been meeting with politicians to come up with a new plan and says he wants the issue at the Irish borders to be resolved by February 24. 

DUP Leader Arlene Foster sat in on meetings with Mr Sefcovic and revealed that the EU’s position would not budge and that they even requested more checks at the borders. 

She accused Mr Sefcovic of having his “head in the sand” as the customs checks have caused misery for hauliers and importers. 

The triggering of Article 16, which was quickly retracted, was in response to the EU Commission fearing they would not secure enough COVID-19 vaccines. 

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They implemented new border powers to allow countries to monitor and prevent exports of vaccines created on the continent. 

Article 16 would suspend parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol unilaterally in extreme cases. 

In this instance, a hard border would be installed to make sure vaccines do not enter the UK “through a backdoor”. 

While nothing was properly implemented, it has caused jitters for the UK government who have become cautious over the EU’s Northern Ireland position. 

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