The former UK Brexit negotiator Lord Frost has said an expected European Union response to the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill is going to make the situation “worse not better”.
avid Frost was speaking ahead of the EU’s response to Boris Johnson’s plan to override Northern Ireland’s Brexit deal.
Fresh legal action is expected against the UK by the trading bloc on Wednesday morning, with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic set to resume legal action that was paused in September last year “in a spirit of constructive cooperation”.
As well as resuming that frozen legal process over claims the UK was failing to properly implement the Northern Ireland Protocol, the EU could also begin a further round of infringement proceedings against the government.
Speaking to BBC NI’s Good Morning Ulster, Lord Frost reiterated his view the Good Friday Agreement is on “life support” and said he “does not understand” why the EU are being “so inflexible” about the protocol.
The former Brexit minister resigned in December last year over disagreements with government policy and what he called “concerns about the current direction of travel”.
On Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told BBC NI the Good Friday Agreement is being “undermined” by the post-Brexit trading arrangements and said the government are not “ripping up the protocol” but argued they were “changing elements… that don’t work”.
Legislation around overriding parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol was tabled on Monday, with the DUP having previously confirmed they will not return to Stormont until the matter is resolved.
“The fact the institutions are not working is pretty concrete evidence. Until they do work, we can’t say it [protocol] is working properly,” Lord Frost said.
“Trade is a pretty important part of interaction and the fact it is being interrupted east/west is a big part of the problem.
“The best thing the EU could do is look at the real world and try and adjust to the situation.
“The purpose of the agreement we reached was to support the Belfast Good Friday Agreement… and it is not happening.
“This situation as we currently have it cannot be sustained. I am afraid the action the EU is saying they are planning to take later today is going to make this situation worse not better. I don’t understand why they are so inflexible about this.
“If they resume their infraction processes from the last year about the grace periods, that implies they think the grace periods are not necessary and should be withdrawn.
“It is obvious the protocol isn’t operating properly as it stands, the idea it could operate without the grace periods is for the birds.”