Michael Gove warns EU has opened Article 16 ‘Pandora’s box’
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove insisted the EU triggering Article 16 has damaged the relationship between the UK and the bloc. While speaking to the European Scrutiny Committee, Mr Gove warned in future, the UK should be wary of “Trojan horse’ strategies from the EU. He admitted while he and the UK Government were appreciative of the EU’s apology for triggering Article 16 in the Covid vaccine row, Brussels did not promise to not trigger the article in future.
Mr Gove said: “You are absolutely right, even though the EU said that they would not be invoking Article 16, on this occasion, they haven’t given us a solemn binding undertaking never to do so.
“The Pandora’s box has been open and that is concerning.
“Former UK foreign secretary Earnest Bevin said ‘If you open that Pandora’s box who knows what Trojan horses will come out.’
“One of the consequences of opening that Pandora’s box has been the unfortunate effects that we referred to on the ground in Northern Ireland.”
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Mr Gove added what assurances Boris Johnson has since been given from the European Union.
He continued: “The Prime Minister discussed with the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the impact of the implementing regulation.
“He received firm and clear assurances that there would be no disruption of supply of vaccines to the United Kingdom.
“Contracts properly, freely and legally entered into would be respected.
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“I am grateful for those assurances but still having that implementing regulation in place is not something that I think anyone can contemplate with serene equanimity.”
Under Boris Johnson’s Brexit Northern Ireland protocol, all products are permitted to be exported from the EU to Northern Ireland without checks.
This is due to the fact that Northern Ireland remains in the single market for goods and operates with EU customs rules.
The implementation of Article 16 means that the EU or UK can unilaterally suspend aspects of this agreement.
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Mr Gove also insisted the EU should offer an explanation for why the Commission felt the need to invoke Article 16.
I can only speculate but I think I should say two things.
“The first is that the speed at which the Commission acted took others, others in the Commission, not to mention outside with Ireland, by surprise.
“One of the things, If I may say so, is the Commission probably owes its member states a fuller explanation of why it acted in the way that it did.”
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