Lord Frost has left open the prospect of Britain defying the EU when restrictions on shipments of British chilled meat products to Northern Ireland comes into force at the end of September.
Politico reports the Brexit minister saying the latest concessions from the EU, which included a three-month delay to introducing the ban, and a pledge to keep medicines flowing into NI, did not get to “the heart of the problem”.
Frost and his European Commission counterpart Maros Sefcovic have been trying to find a resolution to issues of implementing the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The Protocol is part of the Brexit withdrawal deal that keeps NI in the European Union single market and customs union for goods and effectively creates a border in the Irish Sea.
Chilled meat products like mince and sausages are not generally permitted into the EU from non-member states. However, it has delayed the implementation to allow time for a long-term solution to be found.
More checks coming
From 1 October the ban will come in. The EU also expects Britain to launch customs and sanitary checks on consumer parcels and retail products coming from Britain but staying in Northern Ireland. Britain unilaterally postponed these checks in March arguing that companies, ports and IT systems weren’t ready.
Frost said the government was considering its next steps and would announce them before the summer recess, according to a statement. It is not expected to include a commitment to align with EU rules, the Express reports.
Reducing volume of checks
The Brexit minister told a conference that he’s determined to reduce current volumes of checks on goods arriving from Britain without imposing more, as the EU expects.
Speaking at the Policy Exchange think tank yesterday (Thursday 8 July), Frost and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, reaffirmed the UK government’s commitment to protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.
However they said that the Protocol was failing in its objectives to minimise impact on everyday lives in Northern Ireland and facilitate trade between NI and GB.
Eyes on the prize
“The prize on offer for us all, if we can re-establish a new balance in a way that works for us all, is that we can set relations between the UK and the EU onto a new trajectory, one that moves beyond the current tensions, one that moves beyond the challenges of the last few years, and realises the real, genuine potential for friendly co-operation,” he said.
Frost was due to appear before a Stormont committee today, where committee members expect him to present practical solutions to the challenges posed by the protocol, reports the BBC.