Brexit: 'Big confrontation ahead' on NI protocol says expert
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Lord David Frost’s speech on Northern Ireland protocol is likely to trigger a worsening in UK-EU relations according to Euronews Brussels Correspondent Shona Murray. Ms Murray said the UK Brexit negotiator’s speech on Tuesday was a sign of how far apart London and Brussels were on how to manage the Northern Ireland protocol. She warned both sides there is a “big confrontation ahead.”
Ms Murray told Euronews Lord Frost’s speech was likely to further complicate attempts at resolving EU-UK differences
She said: “This speech today is an illustration of how far apart both sides are.
“The UK is demanding a whole new protocol, otherwise it will trigger Article 16.
“We know the EU’s proposals don’t go to a new protocol, they are about practical measures that allow the protocol (to) work for Northern Ireland and the EU, so I think we’ve got a very big confrontation ahead.”
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In his speech delivered to diplomats in Lisbon, Lord Frost said the current agreement was not working and that fundamental change was necessary if it was to survive.
He said the UK was prepared to trigger Article 16 of the protocol – which allows either side to override large parts of the agreement – if that could not be achieved.
“It is this government, the UK Government, that governs Northern Ireland as it does the rest of the UK,” he said.
“Northern Ireland is not EU territory. It is our responsibility to safeguard peace and prosperity and that may include using Article 16 if necessary.
“We would not go down this route gratuitously or with any particular pleasure but it is our fundamental responsibility to safeguard peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland and that is why we cannot rest until this situation is addressed.”
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Lord Frost said: “I do understand why the EU feels it is difficult to come back to an agreement reached only two years ago, though obviously that in itself is far from unusual in international relations.
“Equally, there is a widespread feeling in the UK that the EU did try to use Northern Ireland to encourage UK political forces to reverse the referendum result or at least to keep us closely aligned with the EU; and, moreover, that the Protocol represents a moment of EU overreach when the UK’s negotiating hand was tied, and therefore cannot reasonably last in its current form.
“Whether or not you agree with either analysis – the facts on the ground are what matter above all. Maybe there is a world in which the Protocol could have worked, more sensitively implemented. But the situation has now moved on. We now face a very serious situation.
“The Protocol is not working. It has completely lost consent in one community in Northern Ireland.
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“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 stressed.”
“No-one here is expert in Northern Ireland and we are not asking you to be. We are asking you, the EU, to work with us to help us manage the delicate balance in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and not to disrupt it – to reflect the concerns of everyone in Northern Ireland, from all sides of the political spectrum, and to make sure that the peace process is not undermined.
“The key feature of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement is balance – between different communities and between their links with the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland. That balance is being shredded by the way this Protocol is working.”
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