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Brexit: Lord Frost hits out at EU over Northern Ireland Protocol

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The UK’s Brexit Minister has told European Commissioner Maros Sefcovic, the bloc’s point man when it comes to Brexit, Britain is willing to redouble efforts to work out an agreement. However, understands he has also warned if no accommodation can be reached, he is ready to invoke Article 16 and suspend the protocol, the mechanism agreed by the UK and the EU to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Critics within the Unionist community are implacably opposed, arguing it has resulted in a border down the Irish Sea instead.

A Whitehall source said there were no guarantees even if the so-called “nuclear option” was taken, it would solve the problem.

They told The Times: “Triggering Article 16 does not solve the problems we face.

”Even if we were to do it, eventually we’d still have to get back round the table.”

Ministers have set a three-week deadline for a solution to be thrashed out – although this is likely to be extended if the two sides appear to be making headway.

Lord Frost wants talks to end a “new more intensive phase” permitting the UK and EU “space” to compromise.

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Mr Frost and Mr Sefcovic will discuss the situation with the latter having arrived in London today.

Mr Sefcovic is likely to tell Lord Frost the UK’s insistence on the removal of the role of the European Court of Justice in adjudicating on disputes over the Protocol is “unattainable”.

A Commission official said: “There have been areas of progress in discussions.

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“If the UK wants these discussions to succeed then the major step we took needs to be reciprocated.

“The UK wants us to engage in intensive talks and we are happy to.

“But the UK must take a step towards us. We will take the time necessary.”

Many Brexiteers firmly believe it is high time the Government makes use of Article 16.

Speaking to last month, former Tory minister Ann Widdecombe, one of 29 Brexit Party MEPs elected to the European Parliament in 2019, said: “Northern Ireland has always been part of the UK, it is part of the UK, and it must be treated as part of the UK.

“And we need to say we will nullify that agreement.”

“Article 16 is there for a reason. The French are relying on the fact that we won’t trigger Article 16.

“And that is what the EU is relying on in general. We need to give them a shock.”

Writing for last month, Ben Habib, another former Brexit Party MEP, said: “Lord Frost has, since July, claimed the Protocol to be causing societal and economic adversity as well as trade patterns away from GB to the EU.

“The Government’s obligation to protect the people of Northern Ireland therefore requires it to invoke, as a matter of urgency, Article 16 to suspend the Protocol.

“It is also the only way to establish a proper negotiating position.”

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