Brexit Secretary David Frost has called on the European Union to allow changes to be made to post-Brexit rules governing trade with Northern Ireland.
Brexit Secretary David Frost made an impassioned plea to the European Union on Tuesday to allow a “significant change” to the post-Brexit rules governing trade with Northern Ireland, saying that only could poison their relations.
On Tuesday, a day before the European Union presented its proposals to resolve the standoff over part of the Brexit divorce deal, Frost again warned that Brussels and London could unilaterally concede some of the terms of its deal if the union failed to budge.
In a speech that was partly an explanation for the UK’s 2016 vote to leave the European Union and partly an accusation that Brussels was deliberately trying to further complicate relations, Frost again appealed to resolve a months-long problem.
“In short, let’s try to get back to normal,” he told an audience of EU diplomats and reporters in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon.
“With some effort of will, we can still, despite all the problems, be in a situation where the poison is completely withdrawn from this issue and removed from the diplomatic summit table once and for all.”
The European Commission said it would not immediately comment on Frost’s letter before it outlines its proposals.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed the so-called “Northern Ireland Protocol” as part of the Brexit deal in 2020, but has since said it was hastily agreed and no longer works for the people of Northern Ireland.
Frost has called on the European Union for months to allow some changes to the protocol to facilitate trade in some goods between Britain and Northern Ireland, but on Tuesday he ramped up pressure, trying to persuade and threatening Brussels to offer this on Wednesday.
The EU is expected to unveil its package in response to a set of proposals made by the UK in July, which outlined London’s desire to rewrite parts of the protocol governing trade and the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
Asked about the package of proposals, Frost said, “What we’re hearing about him is…interesting, we’ll talk about it although I’m afraid he might not do the job in the first round.”
The UK hopes a short period of intense talks will resolve the problems, but the EU has repeatedly said it will not renegotiate the protocol and has criticized the UK for backing away from the agreement the two sides signed in good faith.
On Monday, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the UK knows very well that Brussels cannot act on the European Court of Justice. “At some point, the EU will say enough, we can’t make more concessions, and I think we’re very close to that point now,” he said.
But Frost said again that the protocol had caused unexpected friction with some goods and raised concerns about the delicate peace in Northern Ireland, particularly the Good Friday Agreement that ended decades of violence between Catholic nationalists and Protestant unionists, or Loyalists.
“For the EU now, to say that the protocol – which was hastily drawn up at a time of great uncertainty – can never be improved… would be a historic miscalculation,” he said.
“So I repeat, in conclusion – let’s be ambitious and agree on a better way forward.”
Meanwhile, an EU diplomat told AFP: “There is no desire among member states for Britain to go after it.”
“The window for dialogue is closing and it is not good that even before the EU submits its proposal it is rejected,” the diplomat said on Monday.
“This proposal will be as far as the European Union can take.”