David Frost: UK 'considering options' on NI Protocol
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In an explosive speech due to take place at 3.15pm in Lisbon on Tuesday, David Frost, the UK’s Brexit Minister, will hammer the EU’s attempts to resolve the ongoing disputes over the Northern Ireland protocol. He is expected to attack the EU’s attempts to find a resolution as “insufficient” and call for the total removal of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) in the region, arguing it “has created a deep imbalance”.
The speech will throw a major spanner in the works for the EU, with a major package of proposals from the bloc due to be unveiled on Wednesday.
Tensions are now widely expected to rise between the EU and UK, with Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney and Lord Frost already engaged in a Twitter spat on Monday.
The two sides — who agreed the arrangements for Northern Ireland as part of Brexit talks — now disagree on how trade rules in the region are being implemented.
In a series of early morning tweets on Monday, the men accused each side of failures in the attempts to resolve the issue.
Mr Coveney tweeted: “EU working seriously to resolve practical issues with implementation of Protocol – so UKG creates a new ‘red line’ barrier to progress, that they know EU can’t move on…. are we surprised?
“Real Q: Does UKG actually want an agreed way forward or a further breakdown in relations?”
To which Lord Frost responded: ” I prefer not to do negotiations by Twitter, but since @simoncoveney has begun the process…
“The issue of governance & the CJEU is not new. We set out our concerns three months ago in our 21 July Command Paper.
“The problem is that too few people seem to have listened.”
Lord Frost added the UK would look “seriously and positively” and the proposals set out by the EU this week before discussing them “seriously and intensively”.
But he added: “There needs to be significant change to the current situation if there is to be a positive outcome.”
But with Tuesday’s speech in Lisbon, it is widely expected by EU officials to set out problems that will further stall negotiations regardless of attempts to find resolution.
Lord Frost is also expected to say once again that he and Boris Johnson are prepared to trigger Article 16 and suspend the Northern Ireland Protocol if they are not happy with the EU’s solutions.
Sam Lowe, senior research fellow at The Centre for European Reform think tank, said Lord Frost’s expected statements on the CJEU’s role overseeing the treaty will have taken the EU by surprise, as Lord Frost himself agreed to the measure during the 2019 negotiations
Mr Lowe said: “The fear is that Frost is just adding things to his list of things to be upset about so as to ensure the EU can never properly satisfy the UK’s demands so he can keep this argument rolling on.”
Anand Menon, director of The UK in a Changing Europe think tank, said negotiations over the protocol could last for years even if the UK does carry out its threat to trigger Article 16 and suspend the treaty.
He said: “It would just be more of the same – it’s very technical, it’s very legalistic and you won’t have the ‘gotcha’ moment.”
A European Commission spokesperson said: “We are working hard to overcome some of the difficulties that people and businesses in Northern Ireland are experiencing regarding the implementation of the Protocol.
“We need long-lasting solutions to provide predictability, stability and certainty in Northern Ireland. We will come forward this week with concrete proposals.”
Maros Sefcovic, Lord Frost’s EU counterpart, is due to present four proposals on Wednesday that the bloc believes will provide lasting solutions to the disruption that the protocol has caused to trade from the British mainland.
They will cover the sale of British sausages and chilled meats in Northern Ireland, the supply of medicines, animal health rules, customs procedures and a stronger role for Northern Ireland’s institutions in managing protocol.
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