Northern Ireland: Talks with EU ‘unproductive’ says Frost
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Cabinet Minister Lord Frost – who negotiated the trade deal which Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed in December – has made little secret of his unhappiness with the NI Protocol, the mechanism agreed by the UK and the EU with the intention of preventing a hard border on the island of Ireland. Many within the unionist community are angry because they believe the arrangement has instead resulted in a border down the Irish Sea which leaves Northern Ireland cut off from the rest of the UK.
Former Brexit Party MEP Mr Habib is the co-sponsor of a Judicial Review into the legality of the NI Protocol which got underway at the High Court of Northern Ireland in Belfast last week.
He told Express.co.uk: “Lord Frost is well liked by Brexiteers. His rhetoric is encouraging.
“He insists the EU must step aside when it comes to matters of British sovereignty but his actions belie his rhetoric.
Lord David Frost and Michel Barnier (Image: GETTY)
Ben Habib, the former Brexit Party MEP (Image: GETTY)
“For, if he truly believed in the United kingdom being sovereign, he would cease dealing with the EU in the matter of the Northern Ireland Protocol.”
Referring to Lord Frost’s opposite number, former EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, Mr Habib said: “The EU has repeatedly shown its contempt for the integrity of our country.
“Barnier is on the record saying the price of Brexit would be Northern Ireland.
Unionists in Northern Ireland have grave concerns about the Northern Ireland Protocol (Image: GETTY)
“And sure enough, when the Protocol was implemented, the EU has enforced its terms to the fullest extent.
“It has tried, with a great deal of success, to prise Northern Ireland away.”
Mr Habib, who has frequently criticised UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson for agreeing to the terms of the controversial arrangements, said: “The Protocol has afforded the EU a stranglehold on us.”
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Michel Barnier was the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator (Image: GETTY)
Boris Johnson, the UK’s Prime Minister (Image: GETTY)
Despite his criticism, Lord Frost continues to negotiate with EU representatives – including European Commissioner Maros Sefcovic – in a bid to thrash out a solution, and this, Mr Habib argued, was where he was going wrong.
He explained: “It is not just about trade. It is about our laws, our borders and our cash – the Protocol undermines control of all of these – and not just in Northern Ireland.
“Yet he keeps going back to the EU to try to resolve differences.
How many extra seats EU states get after Brexit (Image: Express)
“It is ironic because, in doing so, he reveals time and again that we cannot independently govern ourselves – we are NOT sovereign.
“For all his rhetoric, Lord Frost does not get it. There is no solution to the Protocol through the Protocol.
“To be true to his rhetoric and truly be sovereign the Protocol must be ditched.”
Maros Sefcovic, the European Commissioner who serves as as Vice-President of the European Commission for Interinstitutional Relations (Image: GETTY)
Speaking today, Lord Frost told MPs the ability to diverge from EU regulations would be one of the big prizes of leaving the bloc, but acknowledged this could cause further difficulties over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
He told the Commons European Scrutiny Committee that the relationship with Brussels “will be a bit bumpy for a time but there is a lot of business to be done” following the conclusion of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the UK and EU.
He added: “Our assessment of the situation, or my assessment anyway, is that businesses and a good proportion of society in Northern Ireland feel anxious about the effects of the boundary – the trade boundary – between GB and Northern Ireland.”
Issues over the supply of a cancer drug highlighted the problems, Lord Frost said, calling for the EU to allow the protocol to operate in a “balanced and pragmatic way”.