Details have emerged of a tense meeting between Lord Frost, the Cabinet Office minister striving for the Northern Ireland Protocol to be loosened, and America’s senior diplomat to the United Kingdom.
At the meeting, which took place on 3 June, US chargé d’affaires, Yael Lempert issued the British government with an official diplomatic rebuke called a demarche and accused the UK of “inflaming” tensions in both Ireland and Europe for taking the EU on over the Protocol.
The deployment of a demarche is unheard of among allies, and is typically used by foreign services to summon ambassadors from despotic regimes.
Regular readers of the Foxhole will know all too well that it is Frost who is preoccupied with the situation on the ground in Northern Ireland following a series of troubling incidents associated with the Protocol, including disruption to trade and threats to customs officials. The EU on the other hand, is singularly concerned with imposing checks so that the province’s economy is sealed off from the rest of the United Kingdom.
Frost met with his EU counterpart, Maros Sefcovic yesterday, but the discussion was unproductive. Biden meets with Boris Johnson at the G7 today and is fully expected to repeat his warning and recommend Britain adopt EU regulations. Yesterday, this site reported on concerns aired by UK officials that Eurocrats would “exploit” Biden, particularly through his fondness for Ireland and bring him onside. It appears those concerns were completely justified.
The frustration is encapsulated by an unnamed Tory MP who told Politico: “America should remember who their allies are… Unfortunately he’s [Biden] so senile that he probably won’t remember what we tell him anyway. Unless an aide is listening I’m not sure he’s going to remember for very long.”
42% of Northern Ireland residents want the Protocol scrapped, the British government is only asking for the EU to agree to tone it down – to get an indication of how severe the mechanism is, from the end of this month onwards, chilled meat and some medicines will be banned from export to NI from mainland UK. Brussels wants sovereign Britain to adopt its rules, which Frost has repeatedly insisted is unacceptable.
The Whitehall memo, seen by the Times, of Frost’s meeting with Lempert reveals that the US administration is fully behind Brussels and wants Britain to fall into the trap of adopting EU agricultural regulations to help relieve checks. Were Britain to agree, it “wouldn’t negatively affect the chances of reaching a US/UK free trade deal,” Lempert is reported to have said.
Frost was also told the UK government needed to tone down the “increasingly heated rhetoric”. Will the EU be told the same we wonder after repeated threats and nasty comments from diplomats.
In turn, Frost told Lempert that the EU had “prioritised the integrity of the single market over peace in Northern Ireland” and advised that Biden urge Eurocrats to take a less “purist approach”.