Lord Frost blasts Liz Truss for making ‘no more progress’ in NI Protocol talks with EU

Lord Frost on EU's brutal refusal to renegotiate with UK

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The Foreign Secretary, who has emerged as a frontrunner in the race to succeed Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, took on Lord David Frost’s Brexit brief after the former CEO of the Scotch Whiskey Association resigned from the Government in December 2021. However, Lord Frost claimed Ms Truss had failed to get results from her talks with the European Union over the Northern Ireland Protocol during a speech on Wednesday.

The ex-UK Ambassador to Denmark made the remarks during a 40-minute speech at a Policy Exchange event.

Lord Frost, who appeared alongside the former First Minister of Northern Ireland Arlene Foster, said: “On the Protocol issue, I think she [Ms Truss] has found what I found.

“Whether the words from the UK are warm or not warm, and whatever our posture, EU interests remain as they are.”

However, Lord Frost added: “She’s made, I think, no more progress really than we made last year in the negotiations.

“I’m in no way surprised by that. More broadly, I think she’s doing an excellent job.”

Ms Truss originally campaigned for the UK to remain in the EU over concerns Britain could face “massive economic problems” but soon joined Eurosceptics in backing Brexit in 2017.

The South West Norfolk MP is said to get on well with her EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic.

The Slovak-born diplomat has appeared to disagree with Ms Truss on how Protocol talks should progress.

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However, concerns the UK could trigger Article 16, which could be invoked if Brexit Britain or the Brussels bloc concludes the Protocol has resulted in serious practical problems or diversions of trade, were dialled down after Ms Truss invited Mr Sefcovic to the Foreign Secretary country house Chevening for talks.

The Protocol, which was signed by the Prime Minister and Lord Frost during his Brexit negotiations with the Brussels bloc in 2019, keeps Ulster inside the EU’s single market and has erected trade barriers between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The barriers have been imposed despite almost half of Northern Ireland’s exports and two-thirds of Ulster’s imports travelling across the Irish Sea.

According to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, £10.9billion out of Ulster’s £22.1billion exports and £13.2billion out of £20.3billion imports went to the rest of the UK in 2020.

It has even been estimated the border down the Irish Sea could have cost Ulster £850million a year.

However, Unionists have also voiced concern about the Northern Ireland Protocol over the impact it has in constitutionally separating the province from the rest of the UK.

More than 140,000 people signed a petition which called on the UK Government to trigger Article 16 to “remove any impediment or barrier to unfettered trade within the United Kingdom”.

Lord Frost also used his Policy Exchange speech to call on Mr Johnson to trigger Article 16.

Speaking about the move, which could risk a trade war with Brussels, he said: “It’s time to put our own interests first, the integrity of the UK first, the British people first and I hope the Government will decide to do so.”

The European Commission had shown some flexibility on the Protocol, including when Brussels offered to alter its own laws to ensure the continued supply of medicines to Northern Ireland.

It also offered to cut almost 80 percent of checks in return for the UK to bolster market surveillance in a move which would have ensured British goods were not crossing into the EU via the Republic of Ireland.

However, Lord Frost took aim at Dublin and even alleged Ireland had chosen to protect the EU’s interests and the single market over “working collaboratively with the UK to find solutions that can work in Northern Ireland”.

Lord Frost has also faced criticism from Remainers and those inside the EU for his role in negotiating the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Fine Gael’s European Affairs spokesman Neale Richmond told the Telegraph: “Once again, we have the man who stepped off the pitch trying to retrospectively rewrite the course of history and try to cast blame for his perceived failings on the EU.”

The Dublin Rathdown MP added: “There certainly is hope on the European side that the change in leadership on the British side may allow for a more proactive and productive approach.”

Defending his role in the UK-EU negotiations, Lord Frost claimed: “We faced a choice, take this deal and try and get it through Parliament and sort out the details in 2020 [trade talks] or walk away, fail to deliver Brexit on October 31 and almost certainly see the Government collapse.”

However, the ramifications of the Northern Ireland Protocol has also been political.

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Voters across Ulster will go to the polls on May 5 to elect an executive in Northern Ireland.

Stormont collapsed over concerns from the Democratic Unionist Party about the Northern Ireland Protocol in February.

The Northern Irish executive had only been restored in 2020 after the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal triggered a three-year political hiatus.

However, May 5 could see Nationalist MLAs outnumber Unionists and lead the administration in Stormont for the first time.

According to an opinion poll by LucidTalk in March, the DUP would see their vote share collapse from 28 percent to just 19 percent.

Sinn Fein, who support a border poll on Irish reunification, would become Ulster’s largest party with 26 percent of the vote.

The rest of the Unionist vote would be divided between the Ulster Unionist Party on 13 percent and Traditional Unionist Voice on 9 percent.

Just over one-in-ten Nationalist voters suggested they would support the Social Democratic and Labour Party.

The Alliance Party, which is a cross-community group, also mustered 16 percent in the survey.

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