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NI Protocol: Lord Frost says ‘new legal text’ to be issued to EU

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David Frost

David Frost

PA

David Frost

A new legal text described as an “amended protocol” is to be issued to the EU ahead of new negotiations, Lord Frost confirmed in his keynote Lisbon speech.

Lord Frost said the current protocol, agreed with the EU as part of the UK’s Brexit divorce settlement, was not working and that fundamental change was necessary if it was to survive.

He described his new legal text being shared with the trading bloc as "a better way forward".

“I’m sharing with the Commission today a new legal text the text of an amended protocol, reflecting the proposals in our command paper and supporting and not undermining the Belfast Good Friday Agreement,” said Lord Frost.

He described the new proposals as providing: “An extremely light touch scheme. A one off process for traders in Britain who want to move goods in Northern Ireland.

“We are trying to work with the grain of the protocol but design it in a way that allows goods freely where they need to flow freely and avoid undermining the balance of the Good Friday agreement.”

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Responding to the speech, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson reiterated it is “not a time for tinkering around the edges with temporary fixes”.

“We need a long-term solution which will then allow us all to plan and get back to focusing on fixing our public services rather debating the Protocol,” Sir Jeffrey added.

Sinn Fein deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said attempts to “undermine” the existing protocol “must be opposed”.

“Tomorrow, the EU will publish practical proposals to give further certainty to local businesses to maximise the opportunities to create jobs and investment,” she said.

“That’s what businesses want and that what’s the majority of the people of the north want.”

During his speech, Lord Frost said the Northern Ireland Protocol represents “a moment of EU overreach when the UK’s negotiation hand was tied” and said negotiations are heading into a “critical few weeks”.

The UK Brexit minister stressed if the EU insisted on “no change” to the protocol that the UK could trigger Article 16, which allows either side to effectively override large parts of the agreement.

“It is this Government, the UK Government, that governs Northern Ireland as it does the rest of the UK,” he added.

“Northern Ireland is not EU territory. It is our responsibility to safeguard peace and prosperity and that may include using Article 16 if necessary.

“We would not go down this route gratuitously or with any particular pleasure but it is our fundamental responsibility to safeguard peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland and that is why we cannot rest until this situation is addressed.”

The EU confirmed last week they intend to bring forward proposals on Wednesday for reforming the protocol.

Lord Frost added: “No one here is an expert in Northern Ireland and we are not asking you to be.

“We are asking you, the EU, to work with us to help us manage the delicate balance in the Belfast Good Friday agreement and not to disrupt it.

“To help us reflect the concerns of everyone in Northern Ireland from all sides of the political spectrum and make sure the peace process is not undermined.”

Other parties in Stormont also responded to the speech, with the SDLP’s Matthew O’Toole claiming Lord Frost’s intervention is a “deliberate distortion of facts and contempt for people here”.

UUP MLA Steve Aiken said: “That Lord Frost is asking the EU to help maintain the delicate balance between the communities in Northern Ireland should give those in Brussels and Dublin pause to consider the way in which they wish to conduct the critical negotiations that will follow.”

Alliance Party MP Stephen Farry added: “It is clear Lord Frost is more interested in continued confrontation than seeking solutions. Rather than await the proposals from the European Commission on Wednesday, he has chosen to enter into another layer of delusion.”

The response from the Irish Government came from Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, who tweeted: “I look forward to detailed proposals tomorrow from @MarosSefcovic. It follows months of hard work, careful listening across Northern Ireland & will deliver practical solutions to make the Protocol work better.

“I hope the UK Government is serious about moving on in partnership. #Brexit.”


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