The UK’s former chief Brexit negotiator Lord Frost has spoken out over the European Union’s refusal to negotiate with Boris Johnson over the Northern Ireland protocol. Northern Ireland has been left under EU trade rules under the current Brexit mechanisms with Lord Frost arguing London has been “left no choice” but to rewrite the Protocol or ditch it completely.
Lord Frost told GB News host Nigel Farage: “I think it was a deal that could have worked with delicate handling on both sides, sensitivity to the need for cross-community consent in Northern Ireland.
“That was always going to require a degree of sensitivity on the EU side that hasn’t been there.”
He added: “I think much of the EU doesn’t understand the niceties and the details and the history of the issues in Northern Ireland and in the end, I think they prioritise protecting their own single market over the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and that that is the problem.
“Whatever the rights and wrongs of how we got here, the protocol has to change or disappear. I think there’s now no option, much better to do by negotiation if the EU will do it though if we read in the paper they’ve just said that they never will change their negotiating mandate and negotiate with us about it. So I think we’re left with no choice.”
London has long threatened to unilaterally overrule parts of the protocol and Lewis said on Monday that it “would not shy away from taking further steps if necessary” if agreement with the EU could not be reached.
The EU’s envoy to Britain said the bloc was ready to restart talks on the protocol after a pause for the elections but would not overhaul the arrangement that is central to post-Brexit trading rules.
“Let’s be clear: we are not ready to renegotiate an international treaty that we signed just a couple of years ago,” Joao Vale de Almeida told BBC radio on Monday.
“But also it is clear in our mind that unilateral action creates more problems than the ones it solves. So we need to find jointly agreed solutions.”
Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), overtook the DUP to win the most seats at elections to the region’s devolved assembly at the weekend, the first time a party seeking to leave the United Kingdom came out on top.
Under the terms of a 1998 peace deal that mostly ended three decades of sectarian conflict in the British-controlled province, the main nationalist and unionist rivals are obliged to share power.
The DUP had pledged not to participate until Britain and the European Union agree to lift trade barriers between the province and the rest of the United Kingdom imposed by the post-Brexit Northern Ireland protocol.
It repeated that position after meeting Britain’s Northern Irish minister, Brandon Lewis, on Monday.