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Brexit: Lord Frost hits out at EU over Northern Ireland Protocol

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Lord Frost’s threats to trigger Article 16 – which would suspend the part of the Brexit agreement which is negatively affecting Northern Ireland – has sparked fury in Brussels. Now, the European Commission is preparing a package to impose tariffs on the UK as soon as Tuesday, according to Politico. The Commission is also said to be assessing the possibility of suspending the Brexit trade deal entirely.

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Ireland’s foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney told RTE Radio One: “The Trade and Co-operation Agreement that was agreed between the British government and the EU was contingent on the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, which includes the Protocol.

“One is contingent on the other. So if one is being set aside, there is a danger that the other will also be set aside by the EU.”

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Last week’s Brexit negotiations in London ended in a stalemate with neither Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission’s Vice President, or Lord Frost willing to compromise on their demands.

Maros Sefcovic agreed to reduce trade checks in Northern Ireland by 80 percent, but could not agree to remove the powers of the European Court of Justice out of Northern Ireland, because the court governs the EU’s single market – which Northern Ireland is still a part of.

He said: “You cannot have access to the single market without the jurisdiction of the ECJ.”

Lord Frost, unhappy with the offer, looks set to invoke Article 16 before the end of this month.

Last week, Lord Frost said that triggering Article 16 may be the “only option” for Britain, but speaking today, Mr Sefcovic appeared more hopeful of resolution.

He said: “If our partners in the UK would engage, and I hope we will see more of that this week, then I am absolutely convinced that we can resolve all the issues which are troubling people on the ground.”

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Both negotiators will carry on talks in Brussels this week, and after months of back-and-forth, Britons have called on Lord Frost to make a decisive plan over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Mujtaba Rahman, a former EU official now at consultancy Eurasia Group, warned: “The relationship is totally broken, and it’s not going to move into a better equilibrium until this question of the Protocol is fixed.”

Lord Frost has refused to back down over the European Court of Justice because Brexit was meant to ensure that the EU no longer had any kind of control over any part of the UK.

But Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Micheal Martin and Northern Irish deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill are happy with the deal proposed by Mr Sefcovic.

Mr Martin commented: “The commission have demonstrated imagination, innovation, and also a listening ear to the people who matter, the people who are in Northern Ireland, who are on the ground dealing with these issues.”

Ms O’Neill smiled as she said: “I think this represents progress and I think very much fulfils the commitments that have been made in the protocol to protect the All-Island economy, to ensure no hard border on this island, and to make sure we protect the Good Friday Agreement.”

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