Brexit: Lord Frost speaks of 'disappointment' with EU
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The UK and European Union remain at an impasse over the implementation of the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol. The mechanism was created to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland and ties Belfast to the EU customs union and single market.
The legalisation has effectively placed a trade border down the Irish Sea – resulting in chaos and increased red tape on goods travelling between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen has this week said there is “no alternative” and called on the UK to implement the protocol in full.
Brexit minister Lord Frost hit out at the EU chief’s response and in the House of Lords called on the bloc to recognise the impact it has caused.
Former Brexit Party MEP James Wells has lashed out at the stance taken by Brussels and says Northern Ireland has been “weaponised by the EU and Ireland”.
Mr Wells says Northern Ireland has effectively been annexed by the bloc as Belfast is now under its regulatory framework.
The former MEP for Wales pointed out the protocol may have even breached the Act of Union and/or undermined spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.
He has called for “light regulation” at the border as well as the creation of trusted trader schemes to ensure goods are checked at source.
Mr Wells, a former head of trade and inflation at the ONS, added it should not have got this far as trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic is around £5billion – this equates to less than one percent of the £650billion worth of trade between the UK and EU.
He told Express.co.uk: “What should have happened in the first place is there should have been implementation of light regulation on the border between NI and Ireland using the existing border.
“The Good Friday Agreement acknowledges the existence of the border. So the border itself is not the issue – annexation of Northern Ireland is.
“To put things into context, trade between Northern Ireland and Ireland is around £5billion a year, whereas trade with the UK and EU is £650billion. So trade going across that border is less than one percent of the trade between the EU and UK.
“And yet the EU and Ireland have clearly weaponised it and turned it into this huge issue where there was no need.”
Mr Wells also dismissed concerns that the EU single market could be undermined by a watered-down protocol.
He added: “If you want to talk about smuggling and things like that, even if that did start to creep in, when you look at the scale of the problem, if the total trade is less than one percent then we are talking about real stuff on the margins – not even a rounding error on a spreadsheet.
“So there is no need for this one thing that has been weaponised by the EU and Ireland.
“I mean if you look back [Michel] Barnier and [Martin] Selmayr both said the price of Brexit for the UK would be Northern Ireland.”
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Speaking on the first day of the EU Council, Ms von der Leyen knocked back the prospect of any changes to the current arrangements in Northern Ireland.
She said: “I think it is important to reiterate that the protocol is the only possible solution to ensure peace and stability in Northern Ireland while protecting the integrity of the European Union’s single market.
“If we see problems today we should not forget that they do not come from the protocol but they result from Brexit. That is the reason why the problems are there.”
Responding in the House of Lords, Lord Frost told peers: “I think it is hugely disappointing, in spite of everything that has happened.”
He added: “The fact that there are more checks from Great Britain into Northern Ireland than there are in Rotterdam; that still the European Union and the European Commission have had a tin ear to the concerns and the absolutely genuine concerns of the people in Northern Ireland.”
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