On Monday, David Frost, the UK’s Brexit minister, said that the European Union must move forward in negotiations over Northern Ireland’s economic arrangements, or Britain will unilaterally suspend the so-called “protocol.”
In order to maintain an open land border with EU member state Ireland, Britain decided to leave some EU rules in place in Northern Ireland and allow checks on goods arriving from elsewhere in the UK under the protocol.
The United Kingdom has requested “substantial and significant change” in areas like goods movement into Northern Ireland, products standards, governance mechanisms, and a treaty structure that the European Court of Justice does not oversee.
If the EU does not act, Frost has warned of “cold mistrust” in ties, but Frost’s EU counterpart, Maros Sefcovic, rejected the idea of renegotiating the deal on Friday.
Frost highlighted the possibility of invoking the protocol’s “Article 16,” which allows either party to opt-out of its conditions if they are proven to be unreasonably detrimental.
“They would be making a significant mistake if they thought that we were not ready to use Article 16 safeguards, if that were to be the only apparent way forward to deal with the situation in front of us,” he added in the House of Lords.
“If we are to avoid this situation, there needs to be a real negotiation between us and the EU.”
Last week, the United Kingdom announced plans to extend post-Brexit grace periods on some goods imports to Northern Ireland, allowing London and Brussels more time to discuss trade with the province.
Frost stated that there must be room for discussions.
“I don’t, in fact, take Commissioner Sefcovic’s words as a dismissal of our position, I take them as acknowledgement of it,” Frost remarked.
“But I also take it as a fairly clear indication that there is more to be done. So I do urge the EU to think again.”