Brexit: 'Trouble' in Northern Ireland 'pleasing' EU says expert
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Downing Street will refuse to rule out unilateral action in order to protect the UK’s economic and territorial integrity in the row over post-Brexit border checks. Lord Frost will set out the Government’s plans for the implementation of the Brexit deal’s Northern Ireland Protocol later this week. The Brexit minister is expected to say the border fix is not “sustainable” in its current form and must be reworked to eliminate trade checks between the region and Great Britain.
One insider told Express.co.uk that “all options are on the table”, adding that the preferred solution would be to reach a negotiated outcome with Brussels.
The plans are expected to be set out by Lord Frost on Wednesday, with a paper presented to MPs at the same time.
Today, he told the House of Commons’ powerful EU scrutiny committee: “It must work in a different way if we’re to find a stable route going forward.
“All options remain on the table now and in the future.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We will set out our approach to the protocol in due course.”
Brussels believes that Lord Frost will stress that the Government is willing to deviate from the terms of the protocol unless the EU agrees to compromise.
Downing Street has been calling for the bloc to be more pragmatic and to step back from its hardline interpretation of the post-Brexit border fix.
To avoid a hard border, Northern Ireland essentially remains inside the EU’s single market, with a number of customs controls of goods shipped from the rest of the UK.
The arrangements have infuriated unionists, who fear the trade checks are burdensome and undermine the area’s place within the union.
A senior EU official told the Reuters news agency: “It will be a plea for more talks with the EU combined with a threat.
“But we will not agree to the reopening of the Irish protocol.”
Lord Frost’s plans are expected to include proposals on a UK-EU veterinary agreement to end a number of the customs controls.
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Brussels wants Britain to align to the bloc’s animal and food safety rules in order to remove 80 percent of the checks.
But Lord Frost has insisted that he will not sign up to such a pact that allows eurocrats to meddle in domestic affairs.
Instead, he offered a so-called “equivalence” regime where the EU and UK both recognise they have equally high standards.
Earlier today DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson called on the EU to renegotiate the Northern Ireland Protocol or risk it failing altogether.
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He said: “The EU need to recognise that the Protocol has failed, it is creating very substantial problems in terms of barriers to trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, our biggest market, and distortions in trade.
“Indeed we know that not only has there been a diversion of trade where Northern Ireland businesses are now having to locate their supply chains in the Irish Republic, but contrary to what the Protocol actually says, the EU are using the grace periods to facilitate the Irish Republic in attracting more Northern Ireland companies to use them as their supply chain, and that is contrary to what the Protocol says, because it says if there is a disruption to trade then the UK Government may take action to correct that.
“It is having a damaging impact on our economy and of course fundamentally on our relationship with the rest of the UK.”
If Downing Street announces that it will take unilateral action to scrap EU red tape in Northern Ireland, Brussels will likely launch further legal action.
Eurocrats have already once triggered legal proceedings after No10 moved to ignore the implementation of a number of trade rules to protect supermarket supplies.
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