Lord Frost warned today that the EU is running out of time to reach a deal on Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit border rules. He set a winter deadline to achieve a breakthrough.
This afternoon, the Brexit minister informed peers that there is not much time left for negotiations and that he hopes the dispute will be settled ‘this autumn’.
Lord Frost reiterated his warning that the UK would be willing to unilaterally end some rules if there is no agreement.
He said that the row over Northern Ireland’s customs controls had created’mistrust between the sides.
He insisted that if a bilateral resolution can be reached, then Britain and the bloc can ‘get the drinks out and move on’.
Lord Frost said to peers this afternoon that there was not much time left for negotiations, and that he hoped the dispute would be settled ‘this fall’.
The Brexit minister claimed that there was mistrust between the sides due to the row over Northern Ireland’s Customs Checks.
The Northern Ireland Protocol, agreed as part of the original Brexit deal, requires checks on goods to be carried out at ports in order to avoid the return of a land border with the Republic.
It has caused disruption in trade and angered unionists, who demanded that the rules be scrapped. They argue they create a barrier between Northern Ireland (and the rest of the UK).
The UK and EU are currently in talks to improve the protocol.
Lord Frost said to the European Affairs Committee, that the relationship between the two parties has been ‘bumpy.
He was told that Michael Gove had once compared the relationship to turbulence after takeoff on an aircraft, saying that they were not yet at the “gin and tonic with peanuts stage”.
Asked when the UK and the EU could get to that stage, Lord Frost replied: ‘I think it comes when we have found the right equilibrium on the Northern Ireland Protocol and as I was saying in my speech in Lisbon, I think that is the key to putting things on a better footing.
‘The mistrust that has been generated by the protocol is getting in the way of all sorts of other things.
‘However, if we can put that on a better footing, I really have no doubts that we will be in a better place quite quickly and we can get the drinks out.’
Lord Frost said ‘there is a terminus’ point for the talks, adding: ‘It just isn’t one that necessarily ends in agreement.’
The Cabinet Office Minister repeatedly warned that the UK is ready to trigger Article 16 of Protocol to unilaterally rip down border rules if the EU refuses.
He stated this afternoon that he believed both the commission and he would like to move this forward and, ideally, resolve it by this autumn.
‘So there isn’t lots of time left. This is why we try to work as intensely as possible right now.
‘Obviously, it is no secret, if we can’t reach agreement and we are still faced with a significant political problem in Northern Ireland then Article 16 exists, it is in the treaty, and that is one way of dealing with it.
‘But I hope we don’t have to go there. It is better to do it by consensus.’
He made his comments after he said to MPs yesterday, “The UK will not accept a position for the European Court of Justice” (ECJ) in the role of arbitrator of the protocol.
The UK wants the ECJ’s oversight of the border rules to end, but the EU insists the court should continue to play a role.
While the EU offered to reduce border checks in Northern Ireland, the UK said that the proposals were not sufficient.