UK’s three-month truce with the EU is’ sticky plaster ‘that only’ solves a ‘tiny part of the problem’ with the Northern Ireland protocol, Lord Frost suggested, as he warns that general trade union support for the agreement has “collapsed”. ”.
In an interview with The Telegraph, the minister responsible for Brexit said the deal does not “reflect the balance that was in the Good Friday deal” and therefore “does not work”.
The government’s “concern,” he said, was that the UK and the EU “are only wavering from date to date, and from crisis to crisis, and finding sticky plaster solutions, but not never deal with the underlying problem ”.
He says some EU leaders are focusing more on the ‘process’ than on addressing issues that have arisen, such as the recent row of ‘sausage wars’, and warns that the potential unrest in Ireland. North should be “considered” in their examination of the problem.
Lord Frost’s remarks will spark another row with Brussels, which has insisted on “full implementation” of the protocol, the part of the Brexit deal that covers trade in goods on the island of Ireland.
Last week, the EU agreed to a temporary extension of the grace period during which shipments of chilled meat, such as sausages, can enter Northern Ireland from Britain.
But the bloc has warned it will not provide a “blank check” for the suspension of post-Brexit controls in the Irish Sea, with João Vale de Almeida, the EU’s ambassador to the UK, saying : “We remain firm on the full implementation of the protocol.”
Mr Vale de Almeida also insisted that the EU “will continue to seek creative solutions” to the problems identified by the government.
Lord Frost fears the protocol will have a “chilling effect” on business, with some pharmaceutical companies preparing to stop supplying certain drugs to Northern Ireland, and “some companies in Britain … just give up and say it’s too complicated to deal with all the paperwork and bureaucracy ”.
He added: “We saw unrest, albeit quite low, at Easter, and we saw a lot of protests across Northern Ireland, in various ways, among trade unionism. It just needs to be taken into account.
“No one wants to see this situation get worse and it is absolutely not our wish for it to happen. The best situation is calm and we have to show that what we can do together as the UK and the EU is capable. to respond to these political demands. ”
Lord Frost’s remarks came in an interview on Friday as he prepared to join Boris Johnson at Checkers for talks with Angela Merkel, the outgoing German Chancellor.
Downing Street said the Prime Minister “reiterated the need for a permanent agreement on the Northern Ireland Protocol which protects the Belfast Agreement (Good Friday) and preserves Northern Ireland’s place in the UK. United”.
Lord Frost said of last week’s temporary truce: ‘The problem is that while it was good to have made this deal to avoid the cliff edge on June 30, it was only a tiny part of the overall problem. There is a long list of issues raised by the way the protocol was implemented. This is only one, it was the most immediate, we have solved it for now. But there is still a long way to go.
Protocol “does not reflect balance in Good Friday deal”
He said the need to resolve protocol issues was “quite urgent”, adding: “Support for the protocol has collapsed in unionism. Latest poll shows there is a 50/50 split in Ireland North. It’s just not a stable base to continue on. That’s the problem. “
He continued, “It just doesn’t seem unreasonable to us to say that these arrangements don’t work quite the way we both thought, look at the effects and the way it plays out, we really should take another look. on how it goes. “
Lord Frost said that the protocol “as applied at this time does not reflect the balance that was in the Good Friday agreement and it was supposed to. If it doesn’t support the Belfast Good Friday deal and help that work, then the protocol itself isn’t working.
He added: “Obviously not all EU leaders are experts in Northern Ireland and we would not expect that. I think there are varying degrees of understanding of the issue and the status of Northern Ireland. Clearly Ireland itself has a very vested interest in this matter and has encouraged the feeling that there is a problem here and that we are taking it seriously.
“I think others are maybe a little more focused on the process, that we should just implement the protocol and you’ll be fine.
“We don’t think this quite resolves the situation as we currently know it. “
In a joint article in the Irish Times on Saturday, Lord Frost and Brandon Lewis, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, warned that the current implementation of the protocol could “damage” the Good Friday Agreement. .