Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said that the “game is up” for British negotiators irrespective of whether or not Article 16 is triggered.
He described the British government’s negotiation tactics as “appalling” and suggested Europe should “go hard” against the UK if the article is invoked. He also said that one of the consequences of the continuing rows over Brexit and the Protocol was there was now a sense of foreboding in Northern Ireland that the gains made in recent decades with the peace process “have been squandered and people on the British side do not understand it”.
Strongly criticising the British government’s approach to negotiations on the Northern Ireland protocol, Mr Ahern said it had been given several rounds of concessions by the EU and had offered nothing in return.
“Each of them has been pocketed as if they gave nothing and people came back for the next round without acknowledging what has been given.
“It has been annoying Irish officials since July. It is now increasingly annoying Brussels. The senior people in Brussels are really fed up with it,” he said.
Mr Ahern said three things could happen next week. “The first is the British pull back from triggering Article 16 and they keep negotiating. It seems unlikely. They can do that and drag it to the New Year.
“The second thing is they can trigger it and hope Europe can give them one month’s notice to bring them to the other side of Christmas. I think they are playing the Christmas month by the way.
“The third thing is that Europe can issue the month’s notice and [immediately] go into a tariffs situation, fully or partially. If you ask me Europe will go partially. If you ask me what I think, I’d say Europe should go hard,” he said.
Saying there should be no more concessions, he added: “The game is up. They have to acknowledge what has been given and reciprocate, and then the EU has to decide if they will go go really strong or really weak.”
The former taosieach was speaking at the launch of a new biography of his predecessor Albert Reynolds, written by Conor Lenihan.