Politics

‘Unhelpful! VDL issues furious retort to Lord Frost after Brexit chief’s attack on EU deal

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The Cabinet Office Minister has called for Brussels to budge and claimed the Brexit arrangements “make no sense.” In an op-ed in the Mail on Sunday, Lord Frost added: “There is no evidence that goods not meeting EU standards are getting into the EU’s single market via Northern Ireland.

“All this paperwork and checks – to deal with a risk that does not exist.

“The EU takes a very purist view of all this.

“It seems to want to treat goods moving to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK in the same way as the arrival of a vast Chinese container ship at Rotterdam.

“We did not anticipate this when we agreed the Protocol and it makes no sense.”

Responding to Lord Frost’s attack, the European Commission said the newspaper comments were “unhelpful” and urged the UK Government to “uphold its political commitments”.

EU Commission spokesman Daniel Ferrie said: “As President von der Leyen said recently: ‘We need solutions – not soundbites – if we are to make the Protocol work for the benefit of everyone in Northern Ireland.

“‘This is the commitment and responsibility we all took when we agreed to the Protocol. And the EU is steadfast in its determination to make it work.’

“The EU and the UK agreed – just over a year ago, after extensive negotiations – that the Protocol is the best way to protect peace and stability in Northern Ireland.

“It provides a solution in Northern Ireland to the problems created by Brexit and the type of Brexit that the current British government chose. If we are to achieve our goals, then we need to implement our agreement.

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“This is a shared responsibility and we expect the UK to uphold its political commitment.

“Every step of the way, the EU has tried to enhance dialogue and to work constructively with the UK at a technical and political level to find solutions, in line with the Protocol, regarding outstanding implementation issues.

“That is why we have been engaging intensively with our UK counterparts at the expert level. These exchanges have been constructive. We are making progress.

“We will continue with this engagement in order to find solutions. The various unhelpful comments in the press will not prevent us from doing so. Our focus is on making the Protocol work for the people of Northern Ireland, and across the island of Ireland.

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“Only joint solutions, agreed in the joint bodies established by the Withdrawal Agreement, can provide the stability and predictability that people and businesses need to take advantage of the opportunities of the Protocol.

“Finally, Vice-President Šefčovič remains committed to engaging with stakeholders in Northern Ireland – jointly with Lord Frost – to listen to their concerns and to see what can be done.”

After the United Kingdom left the European Union’s orbit at the start of this year, checks and tariffs were introduced on some goods moving from mainland Britain to Northern Ireland, which has a land border with EU member Ireland.

The checks triggered anger and a perception among pro-British unionists in Northern Ireland that the Brexit deal divides them from the rest of the United Kingdom, a shift they say could sink the 1998 peace deal that brought an end to three decades of violence there.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who had promised there would be unfettered trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, unilaterally extended a grace period on certain checks to minimise supply disruption, a move Brussels said breached the Brexit divorce deal.

Now Britain is asking the EU to introduce checks slowly, according to the BBC. From October, checks on fresh meat products could begin, extending to dairy products, plants and wine from the end of Jan. 2022, the BBC said.

A spokesman for Mr Johnson said Britain wanted solutions to be found rapidly and called on the EU to take a “risk-based approach” to trade with Northern Ireland.

Preserving the delicate peace without allowing the United Kingdom a back door into the EU’s single market via the Irish border was one of the most difficult issues of nearly four years of tortuous talks on the terms of Britain’s exit from the bloc.

Some fear the dispute over the Northern Ireland protocol, designed to prevent a “hard” border, could spill over into violent protest in the province in the coming months.

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