Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, has warned the European Union that she will trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol if “current issues” around trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland aren’t resolved – just days after taking on a new role in Brexit negotiations.

Ms Truss was made Brexit minister following Lord Frost’s resignation last week and now juggles the role alongside her positions as women and equalities minister and foreign secretary.

In a statement published on Twitter, the secretary of state said: “We want a constructive relationship with the EU, underpinned by trade and our shared belief in freedom and democracy. Resolving the current issues is critical to unleashing that potential.

“The UK position has not changed. We need goods to flow freely between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, end the role of the ECJ [European Court of Justice] as the final arbiter of disputes between us, and resolve other issues.

“We must pick up the pace on talks in the New Year. Our preference remains to reach an agreed solution.

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“If this does not happen, we remain prepared to trigger Article 16 safeguards to deal with the very real problems faced in Northern Ireland and to protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in all its dimensions.”

Not to be confused with other well-known EU articles – such as Article 13 (the ‘meme ban’ later known as Article 17) and Article 50 (the Brexit deadline one that kept on getting extended) - Article 16 comes from the Northern Ireland Protocol, an agreement looks to prevent a hard border existing on the island of Ireland.

The clause, as Ms Truss puts it herself, is a safeguard, and allows either the EU or the UK to pause any aspect of the protocol if it feels that section causes any “economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist, or to diversion of trade”.

It was cited by the EU around vaccine exports back at the start of the year, before the bloc carried out a U-turn and admitted “mistakes were made”.

Now it seems it’s the UK’s turn to dangle the threat in front of the EU, and Twitter users have responded to say it feels like we’ve been here before:

Anyone else getting a strange sense of déjà vu?

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