Brexit: Lord Frost speaks of 'disappointment' with EU

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Brexit minister Lord Frost is set to attend crunch meetings with EU officials at the summit beginning in Cornwall on Friday, sources say. The move comes as the UK ramps up the pressure on Brussels to find a solution to the Brexit trade row in Northern Ireland.

UK officials will hold talks with European Union delegates on the sidelines of the meeting of world leaders, with the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol set to dominate proceedings.

On the South Coast, the Prime Minister and US President Joe Biden will also hold their first face-to-face discussions as both sides look to strengthen the transatlantic partnership.

Mr Biden, who is of Irish descent, has also been outspoken on the problems in Ireland and has previously warned any future US-UK trade deal hinges on Brexit protecting the Good Friday Agreement.

The Prime Minister held crunch talks with Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday evening and “underlined the need for quick progress” on Northern Ireland, Downing Street said.

The European Commission President expressed her “deep concern” about the implementation of the protocol – created to prevent a border in Ireland and protect the EU regulatory framework.

Ahead of the G7 summit, Lord Frost will co-chair the first meeting of the UK-EU joint committee on Wednesday.

The Brexit minister has called on the EU to “show flexibility and engage” with the UK’s proposals for Northern Ireland ahead of talks in London with European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič.

Lord Frost said: “When I meet Maroš Šefčovič later my message will be clear: time is short and practical solutions are needed now to make the Protocol work.

“Our overriding shared priority must be to protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and the peace process.

“I look to the EU to show flexibility and engage with our proposals so that we can find solutions that enjoy the confidence of all communities.”

The Northern Ireland Protocol was created to prevent a hard physical border on the island of Ireland and to protect the integrity of EU markets.

Belfast remained in the EU single market and customs union, while the rest of the UK did not.

The move effectively placed a border down the Irish Sea and resulted in increased checks and delays on goods moving between Northern Ireland and the rest of Great Britain.

The UK has since taken the unilateral decision to extend the grace periods on checks on certain goods and the bloc has since demanded a full return to the Protocol.

Writing in the Financial Times, Lord Frost admitted the UK “underestimated the effect of the Protocol on goods movements to Northern Ireland”, but insisted the UK is “working round the clock to resolve these problems consensually”.

Lord Frost added Britain has sent a “detailed proposal” to the bloc in an attempt to make a breakthrough but said he has heard “very little back” from Brussels.

Lord Frost added: “We take no lectures on whether we are implementing the Protocol – we are.”

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Mr Sefcovic claimed there had been “numerous and fundamental gaps” in the UK’s implementation of the agreement.

The EU chief also warned of the prospect of trade tariffs and quotas on UK goods.

His response came amid reports Britain is preparing to delay checks on chilled meats, such as sausages, coming to Northern Ireland from Great Britain when the current grace period expires at the end of June.

Environment Secretary George Eustice described the idea of controls on the movement of chilled meats as “bonkers”.

He added: “I think that’s a nonsense. I think we’ve got a very good sausage industry in this country, we’ve got the highest standards of food hygiene in the world.”
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