Brexit minister accuses EU of disregarding NI sensitivities over trade
Lord Frost claimed that the EU’s approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol has “destroyed cross-community consent” and called for a “more robust, and more balanced” outcome.
The Brexit minister’s comments, published in the foreword to a new paper by thinktank Policy Exchange, appeared the day after Maros Sefcovic, vice-president of the European Commission, urged the UK not to “embark on a path of confrontation” over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Last month the EU put forward proposals to solve some of the trade challenges presented by the Protocol – including an agreement that fresh meat preparations such as sausages could be delivered from GB to NI – but talks reportedly failed to progress.
Writing in The Telegraph, Sefcovic said the package of “enhanced opportunities” for Northern Ireland represented “a set of unprecedented and far-reaching practical solutions”, adding: “I am increasingly concerned that the UK government will refuse to engage with this and embark on a path of confrontation.”
Policy Exchange’s paper examines the origins of the current crisis over the Northern Ireland Protocol. Referring to the period when the NI Protocol was negotiated, Lord Frost stated in the foreword: “I do not think we had made the necessary mental shift from being a member of the EU to negotiating exit from the EU…. Our collaborative instincts from 45 years of membership meant that we were too slow to adopt a robust enough negotiating position.”
He went on to say that the operation of the NI Protocol has begun to damage the thing it was designed to protect, the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.
“The insistence of the EU on treating these arrangements as like any other part of its customs and single market rules, without regard to the huge political, economic, and identity sensitivities involved, has destroyed cross-community consent well before the four-year mark… That is why we must return to the Protocol and deliver a more robust, and more balanced, outcome than we could in 2019. I hope the EU will in the end join us in that.”
The comments have been made as the row between the UK and France over post-Brexit fishing rights continues to escalate. Today (1st November) Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told the BBC that the UK was prepared to take legal action against France unless it withdrew its threats to block British fishing boats from some of its ports.