David Frost: UK 'considering options' on NI Protocol
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On Monday Lord Frost said the Government may suspend parts of the Brexit deal covering trade with Northern Ireland if it does not get an expansive set of concessions from the EU. The UK agreed in October 2019 that all goods travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland should be checked under EU customs rules. However, Lord Frost has declared the deal to be “unsustainable” and is asking for a fundamental rewrite of the customs rules and regulations set out in the protocol.
He also wants to include removing the oversight of the European Court of Justice at Northern Ireland seaports.
Under the protocol, Northern Ireland is still within the EU free movement zone for goods and the bloc’s customs rules and regulations still apply.
The UK’s Brexit Minister Mr Frost told how the Government “needs to act, using the Article 16 safeguard mechanism” to break the present deadlock with Brussels.
In a half-empty hall at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, he sent a warning to the bloc that the Government may invoke article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol if there is no change in the EU’s position.
Lord Frost stated that the EU needed to realise the scale of the changes needed to fix the present deal.
He said: “I urge the EU to be ambitious.
“It’s no use tinkering around the edges.
“We need significant change.”
At present, the EU is developing a new set of proposals to ease some of the problems caused by the deal.
The new set of proposals are expected to be released at the end of October.
However, Lord Frost signalled that the UK needed to see something significant from the EU or else article 16 would have to be triggered.
Lord Frost did not give details of an exact deadline for the EU to make concessions that satisfy the UK Government.
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He said: “We await a formal response from the EU to our proposals.
“But from what I hear I worry that we will not get one which enables the significant change we need.”
Article 16 states “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”.
To date, Article 16 has never been officially triggered, but the EU came closest in January, when it threatened emergency controls on coronavirus vaccine exports to Great Britain at the Irish Sea border ports.
This threat by the EU undermined relations with the UK and alarmed Northern Irish unionists.
The protocol has been instituted to protect both the EU single market and the Good Friday Agreement, an international treaty that ensures peace in Northern Ireland.
It protects the EU single market by customs controls on goods at Northern Ireland’s seaports and protects the Good Friday Agreement by ensuring there is no land border on the island of Ireland.
However, the protocol has created a de facto border down the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Thus, it has been perceived as a sovereignty threat to Northern Ireland unionists.
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