Cabinet Office Minister Lord David Frost, who headed up Boris Johnson’s Brexit talks and has lead on the issue since as Chief Negotiator of Task Force Europe, has confirmed that the UK would be justified in triggering Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol as a means to suspend parts of its operation.
He complained that the UK had “not been able to unlock the potential of that new partnership” with the EU thanks to the ongoing operation of the Protocol, confirming that the UK had attempted to work under the legal mechanism “in good faith” – expanding at length about UK work and investment to make the scheme work.
“We cannot go on as we are” said Frost bluntly, after outlining the burdens being placed on Northern Ireland businesses by the EU’s heavy handed approach to enforcement.
He went on to say that the UK would seek fresh negotiations with the EU to alter the agreement before the government moves unilaterally to suspend it, demanding the end of unfair ECJ control over UK-EU relations.
Speaking in the House of Lords today, Frost said: “It is clear that the circumstances exist to justify the use of Article 16.
“Nevertheless, my Lords, we have concluded that it is not the right moment to do so.
“Instead, we see an opportunity to proceed differently, to find a new path, to seek to agree with the EU through negotiations a new balance in our arrangements covering Northern Ireland to the benefit of all.
“And it’s in that spirit that today’s command paper outlines the new balance that we wish to find.
“It’s a balance which needs to ensure that goods can circulate much more freely within the UK customs territory, while ensuring that full processes are applied to goods destined for the EU.
“It’s a balance which needs to enable all in Northern Ireland to continue to have normal access to goods from the rest of the UK, by allowing goods meeting both UK and EU standards to circulate there.
“And it’s a balance which needs to normalise the basis of the Protocol’s governance so that the relationship between us and the EU is no longer policed by EU institutions and the Court of Justice.
“We should return to a normal treaty framework, similar to all our other international agreements, that is more conducive to the sense of genuine and equitable partnership that we seek.”