Ms Truss’ letter to Mr Johnson reportedly set out two possible options – collapse ongoing negotiations and trigger Article 16 now, or suspend use of the escape clause and instead roll out an economic stimulus package to help companies losing due to the implementation of the protocol.
Talks with Maros Sefcovic, Ms Truss’ European counterpart, would continue under that plan, with Article 16 shelved.
The clause allows each party to take unilateral “safeguard measures” if the protocol causes “serious economic, societal or environmental hardship”.
The UK insists the legal threshold to trigger the clause was reached months ago, and Ms Truss used an article for The Telegraph in January to insist she would use it if it did became necessary “to alleviate acute problems”.
Ms Truss, who took over the role of post-Brexit negotiator from Lord Frost in December, has since expressed personal frustration with the EU’s intransigence.
“Sucked in by the propaganda of the remaining lobby”
But some Brexiteers fear she doesn’t have the “bandwidth” to be an effective protocol negotiator at the same time as she works on the response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Last week, she was in the United States for talks with Antony Blinken, the secretary of state, and Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser.
On Saturday evening, a Conservative source claimed: “The Foreign Secretary has been sucked into the propaganda of the Remainer lobby. We should use Article 16 guarantees to uphold the integrity of Northern Ireland, unite its communities, restore political trust and end trade distortions. .
“What we don’t need is treating Northern Ireland like a soft member of the Union by giving it patronizing state grants.”
A backbench MP added that MPs were concerned the Government ‘did not appear to have the bandwidth to deal with both the situation in Ukraine and the Northern Ireland protocol and, even if they l had done, they did not have the will”.