Frost Proposes to Replace N. Ireland Protocol: Brexit Update
(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Brexit minister David Frost declared in a speech in Lisbon that the Northern Ireland Protocol “has to change” and said he is sharing a new version of the pact in what will be seen as a challenge to the European Union. The protocol instituted custom checks between Northern Ireland and the British mainland as part of the 2019 divorce deal.
The growing dispute could derail future relations between the U.K. and EU, which has rejected any renegotiation of the laboriously negotiated protocol. The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Maros Sefcovic, will lay out his own proposal on Wednesday for tweaks to the Northern Ireland accord -- a binding international treaty.
All items are in Brussels time:
Frost Sees Room for Negotiation (4:57 p.m.)
Frost said he still sees room for a negotiation with the EU over how to address London’s concerns without triggering a larger trade war.
“There are several stages in this process where everybody can look carefully at it and decide to pull back from the brink,” he said.
The U.K. signed the protocol in good faith and hoped that the protocol would work effectively, Frost said, adding that it has become clear that it’s not working as intended.
Frost Proposes to Replace Northern Ireland Protocol (4:47 p.m.)
Frost said he is sharing with the EU a new “forward-looking” Northern Ireland protocol, aimed at replacing the existing version -- an agreement struck when the U.K. did not know whether it would sign a trade deal with the bloc.
The original protocol defaulted to “excessive rigidity,” Frost said, which is now “needlessly harming” Northern Ireland. The protocol now needs to be brought into line with the comprehensive trade deal. He criticized the system of governance, with the European Court of Justice at its apex.
“Our proposal looks more like a normal treaty in how its governed,” Frost said.
U.K. Could Suspend Protocol If Necessary, Frost Says (4:43 p.m.)
“That may include using Article 16 if necessary,” Frost said, referring to the mechanism that would suspend parts of the protocol. “We would not go down this road gratuitously or with any particular pleasure.”
Frost Says Protocol ‘Has to Change’ (4:35 p.m.)
The Protocol is “the biggest source of mistrust between us,” Frost declared, saying it has lost consent in part of Northern Ireland. “The protocol is not working.”
“It has to change,” he said.
Frost Rejects EU-Level Border Controls (4:30 p.m.)
Frost said the U.K. is never going to adopt the same level of border controls as the EU, because the government doesn’t believe the risks require them.
He added that the broader aim of the Brexit move was to boost democracy in the U.K. and to boost economic and political opportunities, but that the U.K. still wants friendly relations with the EU.
“Competition between us is likely to be helpful to us both. But alienation would be a serious historical error,” he said. “The bumpiness of the last four years must not be doubted, but the prize of entering into a new era of relations cannot be doubted either.”
Frost Calls Protocol Fix a ‘Prerequisite’ (4:25 p.m.)
Frost said that fixing the protocol is a “prerequisite” for getting to a better place in a relationship with the EU. And he said that Brexit has changed the U.K.’s international interests with Europe and beyond.
U.K.-EU Also Pushing on Gibraltar Status (4:05 p.m.)
Frost’s speech takes place as the commission and the U.K. are wrapping up the first round of talks on the future status of Gibraltar. Negotiations took place on Monday and Tuesday and officials are expected to meet every three weeks in Brussels and London.
The thorniest issue remains who will be responsible for border checks at Gibraltar’s port and airport. The commission said that Spain should control passports if the overseas territory wants to remain in the Schengen area, but accepted the participation of Frontex agents as Madrid and London initially agreed.
Frost to Address U.K.-EU Strategic Context (2:15 p.m.)
Frost’s speech is due to be broad, lengthy and address the strategic context of the U.K.-EU relationship, according to a person familiar with the text, speaking on condition of anonymity.
He will give further details on the legal proposals that the U.K. is offering in order to amend the Northern Ireland protocol, the person said. The speech itself is in excess of 4,000 words.
Frost to Target ECJ Role in Protocol (2:00 p.m.)
Frost is expected to declare the European Court of Justice’s authority over the protocol a “red line” for the U.K., and one of the main reasons London wants a major revision of the pact. The EU, which notes that the U.K. signed onto the deal, has repeatedly said that it won’t back down on the ECJ’s role.
The U.K. has argued the court shouldn’t have a role in trade between Britain and Northern Ireland, while Sefcovic has said that removing the court’s role “would effectively mean cutting Northern Ireland off” the single market.
Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney scoffed at the ECJ demand over the weekend, tweeting that the U.K. has created “a new ‘red line’ barrier to progress that they know EU can’t move on.”
Northern Ireland Party Eyes Protocol Exit (12:30 p.m.)
A key party in Northern Ireland said Monday that the conditions to trigger Article 16, which would suspend parts of the protocol, have been met.
“If an early resolution between the U.K. and EU cannot be achieved, we call upon the U.K. government to invoke the terms of Article 16 to avoid a further deterioration in political and economic stability in Northern Ireland,” a spokesperson for the Democratic Unionist Party said.
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