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Watch: We will have 'no hesitation' in triggering Article 16 if necessary, says Boris Johnson

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said his Government will have "no hesitation" in triggering Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol if 'disproportionate' problems arise result of the legislation.

Mr Johnson made the comments in the Commons on Wednesday in response to a question from the DUP's Westminster leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.

Article 16 allows the EU or the UK to “unilaterally take appropriate safeguard measures” if its application leads to “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist” or to diversion of trade.

Sir Jeffrey said: "The Prime Minister promised us that Northern Ireland would continue to have access to the UK internal market, yet in my constituency consumers are facing empty supermarket shelves, they can't get parcels delivered from Great Britain.

"Small businesses can't bring in spare parts and raw materials into Northern Ireland from Great Britain, steel importers are facing tariffs, and other problems as a result of the Northern Ireland protocol.

"So what I and the people of Northern Ireland need to know from the Prime Minister, the leader of the United Kingdom, is what his government is going to do to ensure this - will he consider invoking Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol to resolve these issues?

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"The trader support service is welcome, but it isn't the solution alone. We need direct government intervention to deal with this now."

Boris Johnson replied: "I can tell the right honourable gentleman that at the moment goods are flowing effectively and in normal volumes between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and so far no lorries have been turned back. Yes, of course there are teething problems.

"What I can say, what I can confirm to him, is that if there are problems that we believe are disproportionate, then we will have no hesitation in invoking Article 16."

Speaking to the Commons Liaison Committee later on Wednesday Mr Johnson insisted that the situation with Great Britain/Northern Ireland trade was "far better than some people had perhaps expected, things are much smoother".

The Prime Minister acknowledged "there are some problems" but "they are by and large small, soluble questions which one-by-one we are addressing".

He insisted any bureaucracy was "incredibly light touch, insofar as we have to do any checks at all" and "it is working well".

On Tuesday, it emerged that the chief executives of Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda, Iceland, Co-Op and Marks and Spencer have written to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove over concerns about food supplies coming into Northern Ireland from GB, following reports of empty supermarket shelves.

There have also been concerns over the impact of the Northern Ireland protocol on the second-hand car market here, as VAT at the usual rate of 20% is being levied on the amount paid by a dealer here for a car from Great Britain, rather than just the amount of profit they make from it, which had been the case previously.

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