Tariffs on most goods and increased restrictions could be imposed on EU-UK trade if Great Britain pulls out of the current Northern Ireland border solution, ParcelHero has warned.

There is increasing concern that the UK government will trigger Article 16, which allows parts of the protocol to be unilaterally suspended if they are causing serious economic difficulties.

It said this is already happening due to trade frictions brought about as a result of the protocol, which is causing more disruption than anticipated when the arrangement was agreed.

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But ParcelHero said hitting the emergency escape button this close to Christmas could be “disastrous”.

David Jinks, ParcelHero head of consumer research, said: “The EU fears the UK is planning to use Article 16 like a nuclear button, by entirely suspending articles 5, 7, 8 and 10.

“This would demolish customs, product standards, VAT and state aid rules, while opening a potential back door into the single market.”

Jinks said that Belgium had already warned that if the UK reneges significantly on the current border solution then the EU might give notice that it intends to collapse the entire trade deal: “If that happened, it would effectively send us spiralling back towards a no-deal Brexit, with tariffs on most goods and many other restrictions on EU-UK trade,” he said.