Minister Frost will read in a positive spirit the Commission’s proposals, this Wednesday, to reform the operation of the Protocol
The Secretary of State of the British Government for relations with the European Union, David Frost, asked this Tuesday, in Lisbon, that the EU countries analyze in detail their proposal for a new Protocol on Northern Ireland, in such a way that “ we can overcome the difficulties of the past year and move towards a new and better balance ”.
Frost chose the Portuguese capital for a speech in which he did not reveal more details than those contained in his July document on the law that he has drawn up, as a draft of a new protocol. He pronounced it on the eve of the publication by the European Commission of its proposals to reform the operation of the current Protocol.
The British negotiator promised that he will study the ideas of Brussels “seriously, with full attention and with a positive spirit”, because the preferred option of London “is the consensus”. Thus, he focuses the immediate policy of his government towards a negotiation, hoping that Northern Irish radical unionism does not cause the collapse of the autonomous government this month, as he had promised.
The negotiation areas are complex. Perhaps the simplest is the drastic reduction of customs controls between Great Britain and Northern Ireland on goods not subject to phytosanitary requirements. They are necessary to preserve the integrity of the single European market, to which the Irish province continues to belong while remaining in the British one.
The new London protocol replaces them with a system of ‘labels’ according to their destination, the registration of regular and recognized traders and market surveillance. Those familiar with Brussels’ proposals say it suggests a red or green channel system to distinguish goods leaving Britain for southern Ireland and those remaining in the province.
Changing the coordination of subsidy control raises more problems, and the obstacle that seems insurmountable is the inflexibility of the EU on the exclusive jurisdiction of its Court of Justice over the Protocol. The British Government wants to eliminate it to establish an international arbitration system, such as the one governed by the Trade and Cooperation Treaty.
Frost acknowledged that the tension in relations between the United Kingdom and the European Union, after Brexit, is based on a lack of trust, and pointed out that, according to him, it is the responsibility of both parties. “It does not always seem that the EU wants us to be successful,” he said. And he reproached him for not taking into account the delicate balances of No-Irish politics.
A Belfast court ruled, however, on Monday that the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) broke the law that reflected the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, boycotting meetings between the governments of Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland because Dublin supports the protocol. Pro-British parties in the region have signed a statement rejecting it. They demand that Frost be abolished.
Community negotiator Michel Barnier early identified the border in Ireland as a central Brexit issue. He included it, along with the money and the residents, in the Withdrawal Agreement, which had to be signed before the trade agreement. Frost alleges that they were forced to sign a “risky” Protocol. Boris Johnson would have ordered him to accept it.
Skeptical commentators about the possibility of an agreement in the coming weeks believe that going up the river now to modify the order of that negotiation could also lead to a bankruptcy of the treaty that allows trade without tariffs or quotas.