NICOLA Sturgeon has warned the UK Government that following through on a threat to trigger a Brexit clause that would suspend part of the deal is “the most irresponsible thing that could be done right now”- as the First Minister insisted the move should not be made “to stoke tensions because there is a perception that plays well with domestic audiences”.

The UK Government has warned that triggering Article 16 remains an option as issues remain over the Northern Ireland Protocol as part of the post-Brexit arrangement.

Article 16 allows either the UK or EU to take “unilateral” safeguard measures if the deal is causing serious practical problems or harming trade including suspending parts of the agreement.

Speaking after a meeting of the British and Irish Conference in Cardiff, the Scottish First Minister warned that the impact of Article 16 being triggered would be felt across all parts of the United Kingdom.

She said: “The consequences will be felt, in particular by businesses and individuals, the length and breadth of the UK.

“This is about people's livelihoods, standard of living, the ability to trade and keep food on our supermarket shelves – this is real.“

The First Minister called on UK Government and EU officials to ensure they are “getting into a better place” amid poor relations between the two sides of the discussions.

She added that it was important that negotiators are “resisting at all times, any temptation, should there ever be any temptation, to stoke tensions because there is a perception that plays well with domestic audiences”.

Ms Sturgeon said there are now “credible and serious proposals on the table”, adding that “if there is a political will and a desire to find agreement, that should be possible”.

She said: “Triggering Article 16...would be one of the most irresponsible things that could be done right now in the face of Covid and the other Brexit implications that are being felt across all parts of the UK.

“So I hope we can see these immediate tensions resolved, and then opening the way to what should always be the case, a very close and constructive and friendly relationship between the UK and the European Union.”

Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove, who took part in the British and Irish Council meeting in his UK Government role as minister for intergovernmental relations, stressed that “there needs to be good will and compromise in order to make sure that we can resolve all those difficulties”.

He added that from talks at the British and Irish Council, he saw a “desire to ensure that the interests of individuals within Northern Ireland are at the heart of all of the decisions that we take”.

Mr Gove said: “The Prime Minister and Lord Frost take the responsibilities to the citizens of Northern Ireland incredibly seriously, which is why we are working with the (EU) Commission in order to seek to resolve those issues – but ultimately, we do have a responsibility to ensure that UK citizens can feel fully part of the country which has a responsibility to protect their interests.

“I hope that we won’t need to trigger Article 16 for reasons that will be well understood, but we reserve the right to do so if we believe that the changes which are required on the ground in Northern Ireland have not have been made.”

Mr Gove was asked whether if the UK Government does decide to ultimately trigger Article 16, would his administration consult with the devolved governments.

He said: “Lord Frost, I know, keeps devolved administrations, ministers and officials informed about the progress of those negotiations.

“But ultimately it has to be a decision for The UK Government. We have a responsibility to citizens in Northern Ireland.”

Mr Gove added: “My hope is that we have a fair wind in these negotiations and again, I think that the Commission and EU member states appreciate that what is required are a series of practical measures that remove the difficulties, burdens, and inconveniences that Northern Ireland’s citizens currently face.

“If we can do that then we’ll all have made progress.”

Ms Sturgeon stressed that devolved governments should be consulted if the decision is taken, but added: “I hope we never have to find out because I hope we never find ourselves in this situation”.

She said: “The triggering of Article 16 would have profound and deeply damaging consequences for every part the UK. I think that would be the case at any time, but particularly now when we’re already dealing with Brexit disruption and all of us are trying to deal with and look ahead to recovery from Covid.

“It is disruption that nobody needs and nobody should be contemplating. So I believe it would be wrong and also crucially, I think it is unnecessary.

“I think if there is a will to find an agreement, the broad proposal to find it there exist and I very much hope that the question proves to be an entirely hypothetical one.”