Lord Frost provides update on Northern Ireland protocol
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Brexit minister Lord Frost, the only unelected member of Boris Johnson’s cabinet, is the minister in charge of tackling the Government’s latest scuffle with the EU, which has centred around the Northern Ireland Protocol. Although the Prime Minister and his party voted the protocol through Parliament, he has recently proposed a retooled version to peers in the House of Lords he hopes will quash mutual ill-feeling, arguing “we cannot go on as we are”.
What is in Lord Frost’s new Northern Ireland Protocol?
Members of Boris Johnson’s cabinet have blasted the Northern Ireland Protocol in its current form as unworkable.
Much of the recent chaos has centred around the Irish Sea border, which preserves Northern Ireland’s place in Brexit without compromising the Good Friday Agreement.
The protocol has survived as international law since January 1, 2021, but British objection has soured relations across the English Channel.
The UK and EU have agreed to postpone talks about implementing the protocol until later this year, by September 30.
Political experts expect Lord Frost will lay blame on the recent opposition on the EU, hoping to remove trade barriers and the EU Court of Justice’s influence.
He and Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis hope to change some specifics of the relatively young law via a “command paper”.
The paper hopes to achieve a “new balance” by creating “significant change” within the protocol.
Summing up the 28-page paper, Lord Frost outlined how he hoped it could correct the “ongoing febrile political climate”.
He said: “It is a balance which needs to ensure that goods can circulate much more freely within the UK customs territory, while ensuring that full processes are applied to goods destined for the EU.
“It is a balance which needs to enable all in Northern Ireland to continue to have normal access to goods from the rest of the UK, by allowing goods meeting both UK and EU standards to circulate there.
“And it is a balance which needs to normalise the basis of the protocol’s governance, so that the relationship between us and the EU is no longer policed by the EU institutions and the court of justice.”
“We should return to a normal treaty framework, similar to other international agreements, that is more conducive to the sense of genuine and equitable partnership we seek.”
“We stand ready to work with them to deliver the brighter future which is in reach.”
Lord Frost has signalled his team is willing to renegotiate with the EU on “exceptional arrangements” relating to “data sharing and cooperation” in response to rapprochement.
And for Northern Ireland, he said he would consider “penalties in legislation to deter those looking to move non-compliant products” moving between the country and the Republic of Ireland.
He told Peers in the House of Lords he hoped EU officials would look at his proposals with “fresh eyes” and they would take the opportunity “to put our relationships onto a better footing.”
He added: “We stand ready to work with them to deliver the brighter future which is in reach.”
While the Government has pinned issues with the protocol on the EU, the opposition has singled out Mr Johnson’s cabinet as the aggravating factor in the equation.
Labour shadow Northern Ireland secretary Louise Haigh said: “The country will be asking: is this bad faith or simple incompetence? Whichever it is , this shambolic approach – the dishonesty, recklessness and utter ineptitude – has come at a real cost.”
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