Unless a solution to the Northern Ireland Brexit row can be found soon, then Britain will have to trigger Article 16 of the protocol, prime minister Boris Johnson has told Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
The two leaders spoke this afternoon by telephone and Mr Johnson and Mr Martin said the preferred outcome is one where a solution can be found.
However, in the most direct threat yet from Downing Street, Mr Johnson left Mr Martin in no doubt as to his willingness to press the pause button on the protocol.
“The prime minister and the Taoiseach agreed that a negotiated outcome was the preferred outcome and to work hard to achieve it,” a Downing Street spokesman said.
“The prime minister was clear, however, that if talks were not able to deliver a rebalanced and sustainable outcome soon, the Government would be left with no choice but to use the safeguard measures under Article 16.
“This was a perfectly legitimate provision in the protocol that had been agreed by all parties.”
The two leaders agreed on the vital importance of the British-Ireland relationship in finding solutions and in providing long-term stability in Northern Ireland. They agreed to keep in close contact.
Mr Johnson reportedly raised his ongoing concern about the substantial distance between Britain and EU positions when it comes to resolving the issues with the Northern Ireland protocol.
The protocol was rightly keeping North-South trade open but its implementation was damaging the much larger East-West dimension, he said.
We could not allow a situation to develop in which the government was unable to provide economic support to Northern Ireland in the same way it could in the rest of the UK.
“Ultimately Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market was crucial to its long-term prosperity and coul