Northern Ireland: UK should 'stop messing about' says Widdecombe
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Speaking to GB News on Sunday, former Brexit Party MEP Ann Widdecombe told Liz Truss to “stop messing around” with European Union negotiators over the issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol and allow Britain to take control of the proceedings. It comes as months of talks to bring an end to chaos has yielded little progress until today when Ms Truss insisted there was a “deal to be done” on the Protocol which protects peace in Northern Ireland and works for all sides.
It comes ahead of a meeting with European Union Vice President Maros Sefcovic in Brussels on Monday where Ms Truss will work to agree a deal with the EU.
She has previously said she wants such a deal in place by the end of February before campaigning starts for May’s elections in the Northern Ireland assembly.
But Ms Widdecombe insisted this was a waste of time, telling Ms Truss and British negotiators: “I think we should stop messing about.
“We should just invoke Article 16.”
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Ms Widdecombe argued that by triggering Article 16, which would see Britain take control of the trade situation, the UK would be able to bring the EU “very, very quickly” to the negotiating table.
She also said this would force the bloc into a “completely revised attitude” on finding a solution to the trade issues incurred through the protocol.
Ms Widdecombe stressed this would also push the EU into finding a “settlement” over the crisis rather than “prolonging the whole situation”.
She added: “I always thought we should have left without a deal, if we had left without a deal we would probably have an entirely sensible one now.”
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But the Brexiteer stressed by leaving Northern Ireland wrapped in Protocol legislation, the UK has “effectively” left Northern Ireland “in the EU”.
She said this has meant “we have broken up the United Kingdom” adding that is not something she wanted to see as a result of Brexit.
Despite Ms Truss’s confidence in finding a solution to the crisis, Mr Šefčovič is believed to have briefed aides saying that he is “surprised and concerned” the Brexit negotiator wants the complete removal of checks on goods from Great Britain destined for Northern Ireland.
Ms Truss is also calling for a rethink on the current system of EU approval of subsidies, both demands are a reflection of what former Chief Brexit negotiator Lord Frost demanded.
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But Mr Šefčovič has stressed the EU is not considering such a rewriting of the Protocol and has accused the UK of not changing its negotiating position accordingly.
He has also said he does not expect the UK to trigger Article 16 as a result of the problematic negotiations.
Under the current Protocol, Northern Ireland remains in the Single Market and there is a customs border in the Irish Sea, meaning Northern Ireland, though part of the UK, is now operating under different trade rules to the rest of the nation.
Latest figures from Ireland’s Central Statistics Office reveal that the value of goods imported from Great Britain fell by almost £2.75bn from January to November last year.
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