Lord Frost lays down the gauntlet to Brussels: Brexit minister demands European court is REMOVED from Northern Ireland Protocol in crucial speech as tensions mount
- Lord Frost will deliver a crunch Brexit speech in Lisbon, Portugal this afternoon
- He will urge the EU to agree to make major changes to post-Brexit border rules
- UK wants European Court of Justice removed from the Northern Ireland Protocol
- Lord Frost will tell the EU that failing to budge would be a ‘historic misjudgment’
Lord Frost will today urge the EU to agree to make major changes to post-Brexit border rules in Northern Ireland as he warns the bloc a failure to give ground would be a ‘historic misjudgment’.
The Government’s Brexit chief will deliver a crunch speech in Lisbon, Portugal, this afternoon in which he will set out the UK’s demands for a significant overhaul of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Lord Frost will warn the protocol cannot survive without fundamental reform which must include ending the oversight of the European Court of Justice.
The speech is likely to further inflame tensions between Britain and Brussels amid a rumbling row over how to improve customs checks in Northern Ireland.
Lord Frost faced a backlash before he had even delivered his address, as the Irish Government accused him of creating a ‘red line’ barrier to making progress.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the peer was setting demands he knew the EU could not accept as he questioned whether the UK really wants to agree a joint way forward.
Lord Frost will today urge the EU to agree to make major changes to post-Brexit border rules in Northern Ireland as he warns the bloc a failure to give ground would be a ‘historic misjudgment’
The Northern Ireland Protocol requires checks on goods travelling from GB to Northern Ireland to be carried out at ports in order to avoid the return of a land border with the Republic but it has caused trade disruption and inflamed community tensions
The UK wants to renegotiate the terms of the protocol but the EU is only willing to make minor changes.
The Government has repeatedly threatened to trigger Article 16 of the protocol which would allow Britain to unilaterally ditch some of the rules.
Unilaterally tearing up the arrangements would almost certainly result in a legal challenge from the EU.
The protocol, agreed as part of the Brexit deal, requires checks on goods travelling from GB to Northern Ireland to be carried out at ports in order to avoid the return of a land border with the Republic.
But it has caused disruption to trade and angered unionists who have demanded the rules be scrapped, arguing they create a barrier between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
Lord Frost’s speech in Lisbon will take place one day before Brussels is due to publish its proposals to resolve issues with the protocol.
Government sources have warned the UK will trigger Article 16 if the EU’s blueprint only amounts to ‘tinkering around the edges’.
The Telegraph reported that Lord Frost will say this afternoon: ‘For the EU now to say that the protocol – drawn up in extreme haste in a time of great uncertainty – can never be improved upon, when it is so self-evidently causing such significant problems, would be a historic misjudgment.’
He is expected to argue that Brussels has been too quick to dismiss the row over the ECJ’s oversight of the protocol as a ‘side issue’.
The Cabinet Office minister will say the court has prevented the UK from implementing ‘very sensitive’ border arrangements in a ‘reasonable way’, creating a ‘deep imbalance’ in the way the protocol operates.
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.
However, Lord Frost is expected to argue the changes need to go much further if there is to be a sustainable solution to the ongoing disruption.
Ahead of his speech, Downing Street said the UK had signed up to the protocol in ‘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.
European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic is expected to publish the EU’s plans to resolve issues with the protocol tomorrow
‘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.’
Mr Coveney questioned why the UK had signed up to an agreement which made the the ECJ the final arbiter of the protocol when it is now such an ‘absolute red line’.
‘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.
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