David Frost: UK 'considering options' on NI Protocol
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The ex-Brexit Party MEP was speaking after Lord Frost railed against what he called the “overly strict” enforcement of the Northern Ireland Protocol intended to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland. Critics, mainly in the Unionist community, believe it has resulted in a border down the Irish Sea because Northern Ireland effectively remains within the EU’s single market for goods.
Lord Frost, in a foreword to a new paper published by the Policy Exchange think tank, claimed the bloc’s hardline approach towards the arrangements had “destroyed cross-community consent”.
However, he has not yet opted to recommend the triggering of Article 16, the mechanism which suspends the Protocol’s provisions.
Ms Widdecombe, who was one of 29 Brexit Party MEPs elected to the European Parliament in 2019, told Express.co.uk: “Frost is doing his level best and again, we’ve got to be prepared to try the diplomatic approach until it’s totally failed.
“But when it has totally failed and I think we just have to say these parts of the agreement are now inoperative.”
She declared: “Northern Ireland has always been part of the UK, it is part of the UK, and it must be treated as part of the UK.
“And we need to say we will nullify that agreement.”
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We need to give them a shock
Ms Widdecombe stressed: “Article 16 is there for a reason. The French are relying on the fact that we won’t trigger Article 16.
“And that is what the EU is relying on in general.
“We need to give them a shock.”
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Lord Frost wrote that the Protocol ”has begun to damage the thing it was designed to protect – the Belfast Good Friday Agreement”.
He explained: ”The insistence of the EU on treating these arrangements as like any other part of its customs and single market rules, without regard to the huge political, economic, and identity sensitivities involved, has destroyed cross-community consent well before the four-year mark.
“We also have the lived experience of aspects that are simply unsustainable in the long-term for any Government responsible for the lives of its citizens – like having to negotiate with a third party about the distribution of medicines within the NHS.
“That is why we must return to the Protocol and deliver a more robust, and more balanced, outcome than we could in 2019. I hope the EU will in the end join us in that.”
Speaking on October 23, the UK Government said talks with the European Union over post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland had been constructive, but substantial differences remained, not least the role of the European Court of Justice – the bloc’s top court – in settling disputes.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said in a statement released afterwards: “The talks this week were constructive and we’ve heard some things from the EU that we can work with.
“But the reality is that we are still far apart on the big issues, especially governance.
“Whether we’re able to establish that momentum soon will help us determine if we can bridge the gap or if we need to use Article 16.”
Mr Johnson, pressed in the Commons about whether conditions for triggering Article 16 had already met, confirmed they had.
However, he stopped short of saying it was an inevitable eventuality.
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