Lord Frost demands EU shows more 'common sense' over Northern Ireland

Lord Frost demands EU shows more ‘common sense’ over Northern Ireland as he warns Brexit protocol is ‘not sustainable’ unless Brussels agrees to tone down checks

  • Lord Frost has demanded ‘common sense’ from the EU over Northern Ireland
  • Brexit minister warned the protocol is not ‘sustainable’ unless changes are made
  • Negotiations ongoing with the EU over how to change the post-Brexit rules 

Lord Frost has demanded more ‘common sense’ from the EU as he warned the Northern Ireland Protocol is ‘not sustainable’ unless checks are toned down.

The Brexit minister ramped up pressure on Brussels as he visited the province to meet business and community representatives angry about the rules.

Sectarian tensions have been fuelled by a raft of checks on goods at the ports of Belfast and Larne, with unionists protesting about obstacles to trade with the British mainland.

New DUP leader Edwin Poots has accused the EU of using Northern Ireland as a ‘plaything’ to punish the UK for leaving the bloc. 

Lord Frost (right) has been negotiating Maros Sefcovic over changing the Northern Ireland protocol rules

There have been rising concerns that the post-Brexit rules agreed by Boris Johnson are fuelling sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland. Pictured, Loyalist protests in Belfast last month

Lord Frost said last night: ‘It is clear from the conversations we have had with businesses here today that the way the protocol is operating is presenting various challenges. I’ve heard from business groups how some suppliers in GB are beginning to stop sending products into Northern Ireland.

‘We have also heard about reduced availability of choice, cancelled deliveries, products being pulled, interference with movements.

‘The protocol relies on cross-community support but this situation does risk undermining that. Our number one priority as the UK Government is protection of the Good Friday Agreement in all its dimensions, north-south and east-west, and that is the top priority of the protocol itself.

‘We hope the Commission share that view, although if so they aren’t always as clear about it as they could be.’

The peer added: ‘The major issue that worries us now is the EU continues to want to treat the regulatory boundary in the Irish Sea as if it were like any other external border, despite the obligations of the protocol to facilitate trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, to avoid controls at the ports and airports of Northern Ireland to the most extent possible.

‘We are committed to working through the issues with the EU, to find a way forward and have been doing so intensively for the last few months. We have proposed a range of solutions to the existing problems but progress is limited. We do think the EU needs to show more common sense and pragmatism.

‘It is hard to see the protocol as currently operating could be sustainable for long and we continue to consider all other options.’

Mr Poots stepped up his attack on the EU yesterday as he pointed out that once grace periods end more checks will be carried out on goods from Britain than take place in Rotterdam.

He accused the bloc of doing ‘demonstrable harm to every individual in Northern Ireland’, warning that Boris Johnson has grounds to suspend the protocol automatically. 

But European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic – who is leading negotiations with Lord Frost over changing the rules – dismissed the criticism, making clear that axing the protocol is not on the cards.

New DUP leader Edwin Poots has accused the EU of using Northern Ireland as a ‘plaything’ to punish the UK for Brexit

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