Lord Frost says negotiations will happen 'soon' with EU

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Meanwhile Victoria Hewson, Head of Regulatory Affairs at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), has suggested the longer the controversy drags on, the shakier the EU’s insistence on the mechanism will look. Ms Hewson was speaking after Lord Frost’s speech in Lisbon today, in which he plainly stated that the Protocol – intended to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland – was “not working”.

Critics within the Unionist community believe the Protocol, with tethers Northern Ireland to EU rules and regulations, has effectively imposed a “border down the Irish Sea – the Brexit minister further indicated Article 16 could be invoked to suspend it if no solution was agreed soon”.

Ms Hewson told Express.co.uk: “What I can say is that if the EU proposals tomorrow go no further than the trailed lines about sausages being special heritage goods, then I think we are on course for Article 16 sooner rather than later because that sort of gesture doesn’t come anywhere near addressing the underlying problems.”

With respect to Lord Frost’s speech, she said: “I think what he says is pretty fair and sensible.

“Don’t forget, they’ve been working on this, all summer long, really – this goes right back to the command paper in July.

“I think it’s really interesting the contrast with how Theresa May and her team carried out the original Brexit negotiations, where the EU was able to hold the pen.

“They always produced the working text that the negotiators were working on and half the time it felt like Theresa May and Olly Robbins and the others were trying to read into what the EU wanted and craft proposals that they thought the EU might accept, rather than putting forward was most strongly in the UK’s interest.

“That negotiating strategy obviously didn’t work out very well.

“So it’s good to see the current Government getting on the front foot.”

With specific respect to Lord Frost’s insistence that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) should no longer have oversight of the Protocol, Ms Hewson said: “The point is that the EU has this very firm position that only the ECJ can interpret EU law.

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“And I guess our response to that is, okay, let’s just not have EU law, applying in Northern Ireland, and then you won’t need to have the ECJ involved.

“From the very beginning, there was definitely a feeling that whilst everyone was claiming that they were only interested in the peace process, and protecting the Belfast agreement, there was an underlying political interest from the EU side and using it to keep Britain either in the EU and defeat Brexit entirely or keep it as closely aligned as possible.

“And that essentially they were working, perhaps not explicitly, but at least indirectly with political interests in this country who also wanted that.

“And I think from that perspective, the proposals that Lord Frost is putting forward would move us even further away from that.”

She added: “I can see this particular negotiation going on quite a long time actually.

“But the longer it goes and prolong these grace periods if the UK does suspend parts of the agreement, the longer that goes on, if it transpires that during that time period, that there is no great risk to the single market, there’s no sudden flood of British sausages into the single market, or anything else, that weakens the European Union’s argument.”

During his speech, Lord Frost said: “The Protocol is not working. It has completely lost consent in one community in Northern Ireland.

“It is not doing the thing it was set up to do – protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. In fact it is doing the opposite. It has to change.”

He added: “Northern Ireland is not EU territory. It is our responsibility to safeguard peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland, and that may include using Article 16 if necessary. We would not go down this road gratuitously or with any particular pleasure.

“But, as Burke famously commented in his pamphlet “there is however a limit at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue”.

“It is our fundamental responsibility to safeguard peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland, and that is why we cannot rest until the situation has been addressed.”

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