David Frost: EU sometimes appears to 'not want' UK success

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The food and clothes retailer has told the British Government that measures put on the table by Brussels negotiators, attempting to resolve the ongoing row over Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trade rules, would only make matters worse. The UK, represented by Brexit Minister Lord David Frost, is attempting to overhaul parts of the protocol, which it accuses the EU of enforcing too rigidly.

In a letter, M&S Chairman Archie Norman told Lord Frost that the latest offer from Brussels “could result in worsening friction and cost and a high level of ambiguity and scope for dispute”.

UK negotiators are seeking to get rid of customs checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland altogether.

In an attempted compromise, the European Commission proposed in October to impose lighted checks on goods going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

It insisted that this would only occur if they were clearly labelled for consumption only in the region.

Mr Norman told Lord Frost that this would add £9million in extra costs every year.

M&S ships around 90 million products from Great Britain to Northern Ireland on an annual basis.

He also warned that the EU’s offer, if accepted, would add “a minimum of four hours per day” to transit times.

He added: “Detailed examination suggests to us that the proposals could end up being more costly to implement than full EU customs controls.”

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Mr Norman suggested that a “risk-based regime” with limited checks on goods was adopted instead.

Without this, he warned that the company could be forced to cancel the sending of some product lines to Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, pressure grows on Lord Frost to trigger Article 16.

Doing so would allow for parts of the Brexit deal to be ignored if their impact on daily life was severe.

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EU officials recently backed down on their threat to impose sanctions on the UK if it triggered this clause.

According to the Telegraph, a decision on whether or not to trigger Article 16, and to bring legislation before parliament to end customs checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, will be made by the end of November.

A Whitehall source told the paper: “The state of play is we are not seeing much moving forward in negotiations.

“We cannot go on like it is, no.

“It is not sustainable.”

Lord Frost, quoted in the Financial Times, believes a resolution “can be done” that would avoid the UK triggering Article 16.

But he added: “Whether it will be done is a different question.”

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