UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference at the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow on November 10, 2021.
London CNN  — 

Northern Ireland is once again at the center of post-Brexit tensions between the United Kingdom and the European Union, after both sides fired up the rhetoric in recent days before promising to intensify talks.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Brexit minister, David Frost, argue that the Northern Ireland Protocol – the part of the post-Brexit trade deal that keeps the UK’s Northern Ireland in the EU single market, avoiding a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state – is not working as it stands.

Speaking in Brussels just over a week ago, Frost suggested that if the EU does not give way to its demands, the UK could seek to trigger Article 16 of the Protocol – a kind of emergency brake that allows either side unilaterally to implement measures, or “safeguards,” if the Protocol leads to persistent “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties” or to “diversion of trade.”

“Article 16 is very much on the table,” he said, according to Reuters. “Time is running out.”

The UK demands include removing Europe’s top court, the European Court of Justice, from any regulatory role in the Protocol and lessening checks and paperwork for goods moving between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland.

But the European Union remains adamant that the UK cannot seek to renegotiate the deal that was agreed by Johnson and Frost just 11 months ago to avert a potentially disastrous “no-deal” trade scenario – and has indicated it’s prepared to play hardball on the issue.