Lord Frost accused of 'gross incompetence and hypocrisy' after threatening to suspend Northern Ireland Protocol

Lord Frost has been accused of “gross incompetence and hypocrisy” after threatening to suspend the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The Brexit Minister has claimed Britain could trigger Article 16 to override large parts of the agreement in order to safeguard the peace process.

In a keynote speech in Lisbon, Lord Frost said the protocol he helped agree with the EU as part of the UK’s divorce settlement, was not working and that fundamental change was necessary if it was to survive.

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He said: “It is this Government, the UK Government, that governs Northern Ireland as it does the rest of the UK.

Lord Frost accused of 'gross incompetence and hypocrisy' after threatening to suspend Northern Ireland Protocol

“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.”

Lord Frost warned reform was essential because the way the protocol was operating had “shredded” the balance between the two communities – unionist and nationalist – in Northern Ireland.

He explained: “We now face a very serious situation. The protocol is not working. It has completely lost consent in one community in Northern Ireland.

“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.

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“The fundamental difficulty is that we are being asked to run a full-scale external boundary of the EU through the centre of our country, to apply EU law without consent in part of it, and to have any dispute on these arrangements settled in the court of one of the parties.

“The way this is happening is disrupting ordinary lives, damaging large and small businesses, and causing serious turbulence to the institutions of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement within Northern Ireland.”

Lord Frost’s speech came the day before the EU was due to produce its plans to resolve issues surrounding the protocol.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey claimed the speech showed "gross incompetence and total hypocrisy."

He added: "They want to blame everyone else rather than take any responsibility whatsoever.

"He signed up to a weak deal and to talk about a trade war is just puerile".

Baroness Jenny Chapman, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Task Force Europe accused Lord Frost of asking the EU to “rip up the agreement” he and the Prime Minister negotiated.

She continued: “For months, Labour has been calling on the Government to drop the rhetoric and make the Northern Ireland Protocol work for businesses and consumers on both sides of the Irish Sea. Contrary to moving on from Brexit, senior Tories appear desperate to use a tussle with Brussels to distract from their domestic failures – whether on Covid, the energy crisis, or the needless culling of thousands of pigs.

“The route to improving the Brexit deal is simple: secure a veterinary agreement to free up the movement of goods and take up the offer of a visa-waiver for workers across the creative industries.

"Why is Lord Frost insisting on wrapping businesses and performers in the red tape that his fellow Ministers claim to hate?”

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