Lord Frost warns the EU there is ‘not a lot of time left’ to fix Northern Ireland Protocol problems as he sets a winter deadline and says Britain and Brussels can ‘get the drinks out’ once they agree a compromise
- Britain and the EU are locked in negotiations to improve post-Brexit border rules
- Lord Frost said there ‘isn’t a lot of time left’ for deal on Northern Ireland Protocol
- He set a winter deadline for a deal and said UK will tear up rules if no agreement
- But he said if deal can be agreed the two sides will be able to ‘get the drinks out’
Lord Frost today warned the EU time is running out to agree a compromise on post-Brexit border rules in Northern Ireland as he set a winter deadline for a breakthrough.
The Brexit minister told peers this afternoon that ‘there isn’t lots of time left’ for negotiations and ‘ideally’ the dispute will be resolved ‘this autumn’.
Lord Frost repeated his warning that the UK is willing to unilaterally tear up some of the rules if no deal can be agreed.
He said the row over customs checks in Northern Ireland had caused ‘mistrust’ between the two sides.
But he insisted that if a bilateral solution can be found then Britain and the bloc will be able to ‘get the drinks out’ and move on.
Lord Frost told peers this afternoon that ‘there isn’t lots of time left’ for negotiations and ‘ideally’ the dispute will be resolved ‘this autumn’
The Brexit minister said the row over customs checks in Northern Ireland had caused ‘mistrust’ between the two sides
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.
But it has caused disruption to trade and angered unionists who have demanded the rules be scrapped, arguing they create a barrier between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
The UK and the EU are currently locked in talks to try and find ways of improving the protocol.
Lord Frost told the European Affairs Committee that the relationship between the two sides has been ‘bumpy’.
He was told that Michael Gove had previously compared the relationship to turbulence on an aircraft after take off, saying the two sides were not yet at the ‘gin and tonic and 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 has repeatedly warned that the UK is willing to trigger Article 16 of the protocol to unilaterally rip up border rules if the EU refuses to give ground.
He said this afternoon: ‘I think both we and the commission would like to move this on and ideally resolve it this autumn.
‘So there isn’t lots of time left. That is why we are trying to work as intensively as possible at the moment.
‘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.’
His comments came after he told MPs yesterday that the UK will not accept a role for the European Court of Justice (ECJ) as an arbitrator of the protocol.
The UK wants ECJ oversight of the border rules to be ended but the EU is adamant the court should still play a role.
The EU has offered to slash border checks in Northern Ireland but the UK has said the proposals do not go far enough.