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David Frost says UK will submit new NI Protocol proposal to the EU

David Frost took aim at the oversight of the European Courts of Justice over trading arrangements in Northern Ireland.

Image: Twitter

Updated Tue 5:15 PM

BREXIT MINISTER DAVID Frost is to submit a new Northern Ireland Protocol to the European Commission today, he told a conference in Lisbon.

Frost took issue with the oversight of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the current Protocol, and asked that the “poison be drawn” from the debate.

In a speech to the diplomatic community in Lisbon today, Frost warned that the Protocol cannot survive without fundamental reform to governance arrangements, and that it was drawn up “in extreme haste at a time of great uncertainty”.

When asked about the differences between the UK’s proposal and the Protocol, Frost said the UK wanted an arrangement “where goods can move around the United Kingdom fairly freely, that EU goods can move freely around Northern Ireland, and that the governance over these rules should be “normal” – meaning without ECJ oversight.

Frost said that when the UK Government signed up to the Protocol, it “knew some aspects of the Protocol were problematic,” and “didn’t support them but we agreed with them as it was the right thing to do for the country overall”.

Earlier in his speech, Frost said that they would also “fully” consider the EU’s proposal for changes to improve the current Protocol, which are to be published tomorrow.   

Frost said that “actually we’re not” obsessed with Brexit, and that the UK view the EU as an organisation “that doesn’t always want us to succeed”.

“If there is a trust problem, as we’re constantly told there is, it’s not the responsibility of only one party,” he said.

Before Frost delivered his address, leaks of what the address would include, published in the Daily Telegraph, prompted the Irish Government of accusing the UK of creating a “red line” barrier to resolving the dispute over post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Reacting to Frosts comments earlier, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that the most recent demands from the UK Government “are very hard to accept”. 

“The role of the ECJ is to adjudicate on European laws and European standards. I don’t see how that could be handed to a British court or other courts.”

SDLP MLA Matthew O’Toole said: “The European Union is poised to make proposals which we hope will contribute to repairing relationships across these islands and managing the flow of trade between Northern Ireland and Britain under the Protocol.

It is, frankly, a bad faith intervention for the UK Government to distort the facts of the Protocol and peddle misinformation on the eve of a new round of negotiations.

“It is a fact that Lord Frost negotiated the protocol, agreed to its terms and backed Boris Johnson’s campaign to sell it during the last general election. To suggest now that he did not support it is an industrious piece of dissembling.”

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said Frost was setting demands he knew the EU could not move on and questioned whether the UK really wanted to agree a way forward.

Frost’s speech comes a day before the EU is due to produce its plans to resolve issues with the Protocol, which has led to the creation of economic barriers between Northern Ireland and Britain.

The protocol is intended to ensure the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic stays open while protecting the single market, which Northern Ireland remains a part of.

However the need for checks on goods crossing to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK has led to growing tensions both within Northern Ireland and between London and Brussels.

The EU plan is likely to include a proposal that chilled meats can continue crossing the Irish Sea after the end of current grace periods, in a move to alleviate the so-called sausage wars.

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simon-coveney-foreign-affairs-minister-for-ireland-speaks-at-csis Simon Coveney Source: Alamy Stock Photo

Ahead of his speech, Downing Street said the UK had signed up to the Protocol “good faith” but the way it was being operated by the EU could not continue.

“It was formed in the spirit of compromise in challenging circumstances,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

“Since then we have seen how the EU is inclined to operate the governance arrangements, issuing infraction proceedings against the UK at the first sign of disagreement.

“These arrangements aren’t sustainable. We need to find a new way of resolving issues that arise between us using mechanisms normal in other international treaties.

“It is unheard of for bilateral agreements being policed by the courts of one of the parties.”

Coveney questioned why the UK had signed up to an agreement which made the the ECJ the final arbiter of the protocol when it was now such an “absolute red line” for them.

“This is being seen across the European Union as the same pattern over and over again – the EU tries to solve problems, the UK dismisses the solutions before they’re even published and asks for more,” he said.

With reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha

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