UK Brexit Minister Frost Warns of ‘Cold Mistrust’ With EU if Northern Ireland Issues Not Resolved

UK’s Brexit minister David Frost warned on Saturday of a long-term decline in relations with the European Union if negotiated trade arrangements regulating Northern Ireland are not settled.

In

an address to

the British-Irish Association in Oxford, Frost stated that the Northern Ireland Protocol required “substantial and significant change.”

“The stakes are high. The arguments can be bitter. And I worry this process is capable of generating a sort of cold mistrust between us and the EU which could spread across the relationship,” Frost said. “It’s holding back the potential for a new era of cooperation between like-minded states in a world which needs us to work together effectively.”

The regulations, commonly referred to as Northern Ireland Protocol, aim to maintain an open border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland, which is a major pillar of Northern Ireland’s peace process, while also respecting the rules controlling the EU’s single market for goods.

It has, however, alarmed Northern Ireland’s unionist population, who claim that the checks amount to a border in the Irish Sea, weakening Northern Ireland’s relations with the rest of the UK.


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AFP 2021 / PAUL FAITH

Graffiti in a loyalist area of south Belfast, Northern Ireland against an Irish sea border is seen on February 2, 2021.

The dispute over the protocol, dubbed the “sausage wars” by some, erupted just days after Brexit was implemented in January, with tariffs levied for the first time on food, plants, and pharmaceuticals imported from the United Kingdom.

Frost

has been requesting

revisions to the agreement, which he helped draft, for months, but the EU has repeatedly refused to reopen talks after years of negotiations. Even though the “threshold” for triggering article 16 of the Protocol had “been met,” Frost informed a conference that triggering article 16 and suspending the procedure was not his preferred option.

“Some would like us to sweep everything away. That’s not our position,” Frost underscored.

However, in the midst of a dispute over vaccine delivery delays, the EU has invoked article 16 of the protocol, which empowers either the EU or the UK to unilaterally cease elements of its operations if either side believes the component is causing “economic, societal or environmental difficulties.”

“When one looks at the price [of failure or success], and sets it against other challenges that we face in COVID-19 recovery, and Afghanistan, one wonders what future generations would say,” said Frost about the issue, adding that the UK “has no interest at all in having a fractious and difficult relationship with the EU.”


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REUTERS / CLODAGH KILCOYNE


EU President Refuses to Negotiate With UK in Northern Ireland Brexit Row

According to

The Guardian

, officials in London and Brussels continue to discuss the protocol’s implementation, but senior sources reportedly believe the process is “slow,” and that an agreement is unlikely to be achieved by September 30, implying that talks will continue into the winter.

Although the UK formally left the EU in January 2020, it remained in its economic orbit until the beginning of this year, when a new, much softer free trade agreement took effect. Northern Ireland

was granted

special status at the time, thereby keeping it in the EU’s single market for goods, a choice that avoids a hard border with Ireland, and would go against the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that ended decades of conflict on the island.

The UK government reportedly

wants to get rid of

most checks and replace them with a “light touch” system that only inspects items that are at risk of entering the EU.