UK ‘remains prepared’ to suspend NI Protocol

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Brexit minister David Frost said if there is no other solutions, the UK remains prepared to use the safeguard provisions under Article 16, which are a legitimate recourse under the Protocol, reports Asian Lite Newsdesk

UK’s Brexit minister David Frost said on Friday that the UK government remains prepared to trigger the article in the withdrawal agreement that allows London and Brussels to temporarily abandon commitments, if current controversy over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol is not solved.

“If no such solution can be found, we remain prepared to use the safeguard provisions under Article 16, which are a legitimate recourse under the Protocol in order for the Government to meet its responsibilities to the people of Northern Ireland,” Frost said in a statement issued after his meeting with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic in Brussels.

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson along with Sir David Frost. Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

As part of the Brexit agreement that came into force in January, there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, but under the protocol all goods and animal-based products coming from the rest of the British territories must be checked upon arrival to see if they comply with EU sanitary regulations.

The UK government has argued that the protocol is not working, as it causes delays and interruptions to goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and irritates loyalists of the British crown who believe their place within the union could be affected.

In October, the EU offered to cut checks on food, plants and animal products by 80% and paperwork for transport companies by half, but London is pushing for renegotiating the whole protocol.

According to Frost, talks this week between the UK and the EU focused on medicines, customs and sanitary and phytosanitary measures, “though other subjects have also been considered.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson with David Frost, Ursula von Der Leyen and Michel Barnier after their dinner at the European Commission in Brussels in December last year. Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

The UK minister also confirmed that “significant gaps” remain across must issues, and stressed that a “durable solution” requires goods to be able to move freely into Northern Ireland when both sides agree that they are remaining in Northern Ireland.

“Looking forward, the United Kingdom’s preference remains to secure a solution based on consensus. But any such solution must constitute a significant change from the current situation, materially ease practical problems on the ground, and safeguard political, economic and societal stability in Northern Ireland,” he said.

Earlier, Frost said that the UK and the EU are likely to reach a deal on changes to the disputed Northern Ireland Protocol by Christmas.

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