WE aren’t even 10 days into 2022 and the UK Government is already threatening to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

When Lord Frost resigned from his role as Brexit negotiator, I had written in the vain hope that this might signal a change, or an improvement in discussions, which have been deadlocked for months.

However, as soon as the buck was passed to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, it became clear that this wasn’t going to happen.

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It comes as no surprise that Truss, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, is simply replicating the tactics of her predecessor, encouraged by Boris Johnson, to play to the hard-line Brexiteers in the party.

Frost had frequently threatened to trigger the mechanism, which would allow the UK to unilaterally suspend certain trading rules, during his time as negotiator - despite the fact he was the minister in charge of negotiating the Withdrawal Agreement and its contents in the first place.

Truss has always been a political chameleon, you don’t have to look too far to find that she campaigned to abolish the monarchy in 1994, describing herself as a “professional controversionalist”, much far removed from her current ideology, although the descriptor still stands.

And, up until 2016 Truss supported staying in the EU, but defected to the Leave camp once the final votes had been tallied and her side lost.

The National:

Truss took over the Brexit brief after the resignation of Lord Frost

Although she may be the darling of the Tory party membership, Truss is not the measured figure needed in these discussions when such important issues are on the line.

The Foreign Secretary is due to meet EU negotiator Maros Sefcovic on Thursday at Chevening House in Kent for their first face-to-face talks.

Why is this important?

There is a lot hinging on the Protocol, and it has split the political conversation in Northern Ireland right down the middle. Unionists, like the DUP, have backed Truss’s comments, and want the protocol scrapped in its entirety.

This is because the agreement has created a de-facto trade border in the Irish sea, which unionists feel is impacting their identity, separating them from the rest of the UK.

The National:

Campaigners at the border between NI and the Republic against Article 16 being triggered

On the other side, Border Communities Against Brexit have held protests against the possibility of a hard land border, with Sinn Fein also against it.

It all harks back to the Good Friday Agreement, which saw the end of the Troubles when it was signed in 1998, and maintaining “peace and co-operation” on the island.

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Amidst all the bickering about who should rule on issues between the bloc and the UK, the EU prefers the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to stay in the role, while the UK wants an independent authority, the underlying threat against stability in Northern Ireland is concerning.

The UK and the EU need to find new ways to move forward, instead of arguing over old ground.

The Tory party no doubt celebrated Truss taking over the Brexit brief, with the trade deals she struck with Australia and New Zealand, elevating her to the membership’s favourite as Johnson’s successor.

The National:

Loyalists have demanded the UK trigger the mechanism

But those trade deals aren’t all the Tories are making them out to be - allowing Australia to duck out of climate commitments and the New Zealand deal making back barely a fraction of GDP lost to Brexit.

The EU have already hit back at Truss’s threats to trigger Article 16 - it got Frost nowhere, and it will get Truss nowhere too.

On the surface, the Tories might think Truss has the ability to finally bring this issue to a close, but if she doesn’t have the ability to think outside the Brexiteer box then there will be trouble ahead.