Politicians in the US are warning that US-UK relations could turn sour in the event that Article 16, the "safeguard" clause of the Northern Ireland Protocol, is triggered.

The Ad Hoc Committee to Protect the Good Friday Agreement said in a statement today, November 11, that it "fully supports" the recent statement from  Gregory W. Meeks, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and his colleagues in "calling out the British government for its continuing threats to invoke Article 16 which would suspend the Northern Ireland Protocol.

"Such a move is unwise and will be unpopular in Northern Ireland as well. Once again, the people of Northern Ireland will be the economic losers as a result of a British political miscalculation."

The November 9 statement from Congressmen Meeks, Keating, Blumenauer, and Boyle said in part: “In threatening to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the United Kingdom threatens to not only destabilize trade relations, but also that hard-earned peace."

In Thursday's statement from the Ad Hoc Committee, co-chair Congressman James Walsh stated: "A clear majority of citizens in Northern Ireland support the Protocol. The business community does also. To lose the economic benefits of the Protocol coupled with the collapse of the Good Friday Agreement will be a double loss from which Northern Ireland may not recover.

“We urge President Biden to stand up for the Good Friday Agreement and tell the British government in no uncertain terms that a cold frost will descend on US/UK relations if the Good Friday Agreement is placed in any further jeopardy. There is everything to be gained by doing a deal that boosts the Northern Ireland economy and keeps the peace."

Congressman Bruce Morrison, fellow co-chair of the Ad Hoc Committee, further said: "The continued escalation of rhetoric and actual violence against the Protocol will, in time, eventually lead to the collapse of the institutions. The opponents of the Good Friday Agreement are using this constant critique of the Protocol to attack the very integrity and core principles that define the Belfast Agreement.

"Prime Minister Johnson needs to rein in Lord Frost quickly and U.S. Secretary of State Blinken should pick up the phone and tell his counterparts in London in plain American English to stop."

On Twitter, Daniel Mulhall, Ireland's Ambassador to the US, drew attention to today's "strong statement" from the Ad Hoc Committee:

A strong statement on the Northern Ireland Protocol from the US Ad Hoc Committee to Protect the Good Friday Agreement @HocGfa, a group of influential Americans with an abiding commitment to peace and reconciliation in Ireland.👇👇 https://t.co/bvatDNa6zX

— Daniel Mulhall (@DanMulhall) November 11, 2021

Speaking ahead of a meeting with the European Commission vice-President Maros Sefcovic in Brussels on November 5, the UK's Brexit minister Lord David Frost said: “We’re not going to trigger article 16 today, but article 16 is very much on the table and has been since July.

“Time is running out on these talks if we are to make progress.”

However, on Wednesday, Lord Frost said: "I certainly will not give up on this process unless and until it is abundantly clear that nothing more can be done."

Loyalists are fiercely opposed to the Northern Ireland Protocol, a portion of the agreed-upon Brexit arrangement, which aims to keep Northern Ireland in both the United Kingdom's customs territory and the EU's single market. It effectively creates a border in the Irish Sea, much to the anger of unionists.

Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol is the "safeguard" clause which states in part: "If the application of this Protocol leads to serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist, or to diversion of trade, the Union or the United Kingdom may unilaterally take appropriate safeguard measures.

"Such safeguard measures shall be restricted with regard to their scope and duration to what is strictly necessary in order to remedy the situation. Priority shall be given to such measures as will least disturb the functioning of this Protocol."

About the Ad Hoc Committee to Protect the Good Friday Agreement

The Ad Hoc Committee was formed in early 2019 by a group of forty Americans who have worked for decades on the Northern Ireland peace process. Ad Hoc is a bi-partisan group that includes five former Ambassadors and two former Special Presidential Envoys. Those signing our initial letter to Prime Minister Theresa May in February of 2019 included former Under Secretary Paula Dobriansky, U.S. Senator Gary Hart, former Special Presidential Envoy Mitchell Reiss, Jake Sullivan, U.S. Senator Chris Dodd, former NSC Advisor Nancy Soderberg, Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Ambassador Elizabeth Bagley and Ambassador Kevin O’Malley among others. Follow us on Twitter at @HocGfa.