Brexit minister Lord Frost is to set out Britain’s demands for changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol amid a stand-off with the EU over the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
In a speech to the diplomatic community in Lisbon on Tuesday, Lord Frost will warn the protocol cannot survive without fundamental reform to governance arrangements.
But even before he delivered his address, he was accused by the Irish Government of creating a “red line” barrier to progress in resolving the dispute over post-Brexit trading arrangements.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the peer was setting demands he knew the EU could not move on and questioned whether the UK really wanted to agree a way forward.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Lord Frost is expected to say: “For the EU now to say that the Protocol – drawn up in extreme haste in a time of great uncertainty – can never be improved upon, when it is so self-evidently causing such significant problems, would be a historic misjudgment.”
Lord Frost’s speech comes a day before the EU is due to produce its plans to resolve issues with the protocol, which has led to the creation of economic barriers between Northern Ireland and Britain.
He is expected to argue that Brussels has been too quick to dismiss the row over the ECJ as a “side issue”.
The minister will say the court prevented the UK from implementing “very sensitive” arrangements in the protocol in a “reasonable way”, creating a “deep imbalance” in the way it operates.
The protocol is intended to ensure the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic stays open while protecting the single market, which Northern Ireland remains a part of.
However the need for checks on goods crossing to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK has led to growing tensions both within Northern Ireland and between London and Brussels.
The EU plan is likely to include a proposal that chilled meats can continue crossing the Irish Sea after the end of current grace periods, in a move to alleviate the so-called sausage wars.
However Lord Frost is expected to argue the changes need to go much further if there is to be a sustainable solution.
Ahead of his speech, Downing Street said the UK had signed up to the protocol “good faith” but the way it was being operated by the EU could not continue.
“It was formed in the spirit of compromise in challenging circumstances,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.
“Since then we have seen how the EU is inclined to operate the governance arrangements, issuing infraction proceedings against the UK at the first sign of disagreement.
“These arrangements aren’t sustainable. We need to find a new way of resolving issues that arise between us using mechanisms normal in other international treaties.
“It is unheard of for bilateral agreements being policed by the courts of one of the parties.”
Mr Coveney questioned why the UK had signed up to an agreement which made the the ECJ the final arbiter of the protocol when it was now such an “absolute red line” for them.
“This is being seen across the European Union as the same pattern over and over again – the EU tries to solve problems, the UK dismisses the solutions before they’re even published and asks for more,” he said.
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