The speech, made by the cabinet office minister minister today to the British-Irish Association, outlines renegotiations that should be made to the Northern Ireland Protocol going forward, including a few strategic changes to be made involving the “movement of goods into Northern Ireland, the standards for goods within Northern Ireland, and the governance arrangements for regulating this.”
He claims “the issue is not settled” and that “we need to see substantial and significant change”, which a political expert claims could be a swipe at the European Union.
Mujtaba Rahman, managing director of Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy firm tweeted the claim to followers urging them to “Read David Frost’s speech closely”.
The tweet from the political expert reads: “I’ve always argued HMG was seeking a substantive & fundamental rewrite of Protocol – not tweaks; this text makes that clear
“With a loaded gun on the table (A16 threshold has been met) for good measure. Very hard for the EU.”
Lord Frost provided ideas on improving the situation with suggestions he describes as “workable and manageable” and also “awkward” and which “may be unwelcome to some”.
He states: “We are now beginning a process of working out with the EU whether we can see a path forward that delivers a sustainable and enduring arrangement.
“I hope this is possible.”
The expert implied that he has made things very difficult for the European Union with his demands, and the declaring of Article 16.
The claim comes following Lord Frost declaring it was “simply a statement of fact” that the threshold for Article 16 has been met and that action needed to be taken as “ it is open to the UK Government to take a range of safeguard measures on this basis”.
Article 16 of the NI protocol allows the EU or UK to unilaterally suspend aspects of its operations if either side considers that aspect to be causing “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist, or to diversion of trade.
Responses to the tweet included one user pointing out that the “NIP will have to remain with a few tweaks” as a rewrite of the protocol would require a fundamental rewrite of the UK/EU trade & co-op agreement, which they claim “neither party wants”.
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Instead, Lord Frost outlines that they “envisage that EU laws can still be valid, within certain circumstances, in Northern Ireland” and the need for recognition that “the EU and Ireland have an extremely legitimate interest in how these arrangements are enforced. Some would like us to sweep all the existing arrangements away. That is not our position.”
Instead, “the right balance” needs to be found when it comes to “a dedicated UK-EU Treaty relationship covering Northern Ireland”, rather than a rewritten set of agreements.
Instead he outlines objectives which he hopes to achieve, and the issue instead lies within what the UK Government proposes to do if his demands are not met.
In his speech, he also addressed claims that this approach was intended to be a form of “‘EU-bashing’ to rally support domestically and that Northern Ireland is this Government’s chosen instrument”.
He stated “That is obviously not true”.
Speculation comes over whether the threat of Article 16 is quite as imminent as Lord Frost claims it is though, as Article 16 doesn’t suspend the NI protocol, with one user claiming that the Brexit minister “threatens action from a place of weakness”.
Another claimed the speech didn’t offer anything new apart from “vague proclamations about a way forward must be found, threat of A16” and referred to the content as “same old, same old”.