Lord Frost wants more from Brussels showdown in bid to renegotiate the Northern Ireland Protocol

Fri 15 Oct 2021
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

Lord Frost is telling the EU they are still “not on the same page” and it needs to go further to resolve the Northern Ireland protocol dispute as negotiations resume in Brussels.

The Brexit minister is meeting his counterpart Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission vice president, to agree timetabling of talks for the next three or four weeks.

ECJ role in dispute

According to the Daily Mail, a major stumbling block remains the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in arbitrating disputes.

One possible solution could restrict the role of the ECJ to a ‘last resort’ if an independent arbitration panel could not solve a dispute.

However, government sources said this may not go far enough with health secretary Sajid Javid adding that “one of the most important issues is to end the role of the ECJ in Northern Ireland”.

EU ambassador to the UK, João Vale de Almeida, has said stripping the ECJ of this role was “impossible”. 

Protocol proposals

This week, Sefcovic unveiled the EU’s proposals for how to change the implementation of the Protocol in order to reduce checks and the administrative burden on business, reports City AM

As covered in the IOE&IT Daily Update, the EU has proposed changes that will ease customs and safety checks, ensure the supply of medicines into Northern Ireland, and offer Northern Ireland more of a say in legislation that affects it.

The BBC reports that Sefcovic struck an upbeat tone in an interview about the upcoming talks but says it will take skilful negotiation and further compromise to deliver a deal.

Retaliation under consideration

According to the FT, the EU is preparing itself for a trade war with Britain as five key members urged Sefcovic to come up with retaliatory measures in case Article 16 is triggered by Britain. 

Options being discussed include curbing UK access to the bloc’s energy supplies, imposing tariffs on British exports, or even terminating the trade agreement between the two sides.

What is Article 16?

Part of the NI Protocol agreement that sets out trading arrangements for NI after Brexit, Article 16 is an ‘last resort’ option allowing the UK or the EU to act unilaterally to avoid “economic, societal or environmental difficulties” that may arise from the NI Protocol.

Triggering Article 16 does not suspend the NI Protocol.