NI Protocol: Expert asks why Lord Frost signed off on deal
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David Frost, the UK’s Brexit Minister, this evening outlined his vision for a completely new Northern Ireland Protocol. The Protocol is a highly controversial part of the UK’s Brexit divorce deal with the EU agreed at the end of last year to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. It effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods, despite the province leaving the bloc with the rest of the UK.
However, the legislation has angered Northern Irish unionists, who claim the Protocol has effectively cut the territory off from Britain with a trade border through the Irish Sea.
Lord Frost has consistently called for the EU to renegotiate the Protocol, but Brussels has so far refused.
The Brexit Minister was previously the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator before he joined Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet earlier this year.
In an interview with The Mail on Sunday in September last year he vowed that Mr Johnson’s government would take a tougher stance in its dealings with Brussels than when his predecessor Theresa May was in Downing Street.
He said: “We came in after a government and negotiating team that had blinked and had its bluff called at critical moments and the EU had learned not to take our word seriously.
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“So, a lot of what we are trying to do this year is to get them to realise that we mean what we say, and they should take our position seriously.”
Lord Frost was speaking as the UK negotiating team was gearing up for their eighth round of talks with their EU counterparts.
Both parties were attempting to hammer out a legally binding Brexit divorce deal ahead of the December 31 deadline.
Lord Frost added: “Obviously, lots of preparation was done last year, we are ramping up again and have been for some time under Michael Gove’s authority.
“I don’t think that we are scared of this at all.
“We want to get back the powers to control our borders and that is the most important thing.
“If we can reach an agreement that regulates trade like Canada’s, great.
“If we can’t, it will be an Australian-like trading agreement and we are fully ready for that.”
The UK finally reached a trade deal with the EU on Christmas Eve, before the agreement began being applied provisionally from January 1 this year.
The Northern Ireland Protocol part of the Brexit deal has caused significant problems for businesses since it came into force in January.
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Brussels has stubbornly refused to make concessions to the UK over the Protocol, insisting that strict checks at the Northern Irish border on a range of goods, including chilled meats, must be maintained.
Lord Frost again addressed the issues in a speech to diplomats in Portugal on Tuesday as he put forward a new legal text to replace the Protocol.
Speaking about his vision for five key areas of Brexit, he said: “First Brexit has changed our international interests and hence will change our patterns of European relationships.
“Not necessarily fundamentally – but significantly.
“Second that Brexit means competition.
“We will be setting a different path on economic policy.
“Third that Brexit was about democracy.
“It is a democratic project that is bringing politics back home.
“Fourth that the EU and us have got into a low equilibrium somewhat fractious relationship. And it takes two to fix it.
“And fifth, fixing the serious problem we have with the Northern Ireland Protocol is a prerequisite for getting to that better place.”
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