The UK’s Brexit minister is set to make a statement on the Northern Ireland Protocol in parliament later on on Wednesday, parliamentary authorities said.
David Frost, who has been negotiating the finer points of the protocol agreed between Britain and the EU as part of the 2020 Brexit deal, will set out changes needed to iron out diplomatic issues.
Britain will threaten to deviate from the Brexit deal unless the EU offered more flexibility over Northern Ireland, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing sources.
Frost told MPs on Monday that the current agreement was not sustainable and if an agreement could not be reached the UK would consider unilateral action through Article 16.
Article 16 allows the EU or UK to unilaterally suspend aspects of its operations if either side considers that aspect to be causing “economic, societal or environmental difficulties”.
The Northern Ireland Protocol’s original aim was to stop Brexit from disrupting a hard-negotiated peace brought by a 1998 agreement but has become a crucial sticking point in Brexit discussions, even after the end of the transition period in January.
Meanwhile, retailer Marks & Spencer warned it would cut Christmas products in Northern Ireland in order to avoid forthcoming post-Brexit customs checks.
Trade between Britain and the EU is currently subject to a so-called grace period, with light-touch checks. However, that runs out in September.
M&S’s chairman Archie Norman told Radio 4’s Today programme that the changes would mean higher prices and less choice for the region, slamming them as “pointless”.
Norman called for a “common sense approach to enforcement”.
The developments are the latest in a long list of trading issues caused by Brexit. Christmas saw significant disruption at ports, with lorry tailbacks and delays in the delivery of key produce. Changes to VAT and shipping rules have also hit businesses.
Watch: UK to set out proposals for Northern Ireland Protocol on Wednesday