Labour claims Tories will spark EU row to distract from fuel crisis

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Keir Starmer‘s Brexit chief has predicted the Government will trigger a major bust up with the European Union in an attempt to distract from the fuel crisis. 

Jenny Chapman, the shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, said ministers are in a ‘sticky situation’ and they will not be ‘enjoying the headlines or the sight of people queuing at petrol stations’. 

Ms Chapman said that makes it ‘more likely’ that her counterpart, Lord Frost, will opt to unilaterally suspend some of the post-Brexit border checks in Northern Ireland. 

The Government has repeatedly threatened to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol and tear up parts of the agreement amid an ongoing stalemate with the bloc over how to smooth the implementation of the new arrangements.   

Ms Chapman said she believes ministers ‘will like the drama’ of the move which would prompt a furious response from the EU.

The protocol, agreed as part of the Brexit divorce deal, requires checks on goods travelling from GB to Northern Ireland to be carried out at ports in order to avoid the return of a land border with the Republic. 

But it has caused disruption to trade and angered unionists who have demanded the rules be scrapped, arguing they create a barrier between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. 

The UK wants to renegotiate the terms of the protocol but the EU is only willing to make tweaks. 

© Provided by Daily Mail (
© Provided by Daily Mail (

Boris Johnson has repeatedly threatened to trigger Article 16 of the protocol to unilaterally ditch some of the rules if the two sides cannot agree a way forward. 

Lord Frost said earlier this month that the EU would be making a ‘significant mistake’ if it believes Britain is not willing to trigger the mechanism. 

Ms Chapman told a fringe event at Labour’s annual conference in Brighton that she believes ministers could escalate the row with Brussels to ease pressure over domestic problems. 

She said: ‘I have become quite cynical about the way the Government handles these things, it may shock you to know.

‘But I do think the Government is really in a sticky situation at the moment, they are not enjoying the headlines or the sight of people queuing at petrol stations.

‘They will not enjoy the fact that the Labour Party, against everyone’s predictions, is actually having quite a good conference, the atmosphere is good, Keir will give a great speech tomorrow and it will be well received and they won’t like it.

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‘And the polls are tightening as a result and I think that, I am ashamed to to say this about our government, but I think that makes it more likely that they will want to trigger Article 16 when actually they could take other routes.

‘But they will like the drama of it and they will seek to use that to further their own party political advantage and that should shock nobody in this room because that is exactly how they have managed these negotiations for a very long time.’

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy told the same event that she believes triggering Article 16 would be ‘deeply unhelpful’. 

Ms Nandy said the ‘constant stream of threats’ from ministers to tear up parts of the Brexit deal ‘is really starting to damage trust and our reputation around the world’.     

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