Lord Frost is planning to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol as early as next month, warning the EU that “we cannot wait forever.”
The Brexit minister, speaking at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, said the Protocol’s difficulties were wreaking havoc on Northern Ireland.
He cautioned Brussels that “tinkering at the edges” will not fix the frictions generated by the Protocol in a speech directed as much at the EU as at the Tory members in the chamber.
In order to find a solution, he suggested that the EU be more “ambitious.”
However, he sent a caution to Brussels, saying that a solution must be found immediately to avoid the UK using the legal mechanism that suspends the Protocol’s implementation.
“We cannot wait forever,” he remarked. “Without an agreed solution soon, we will need to act, using the Article 16 safeguard mechanism, to address the impact the Protocol is having on Northern Ireland.”p
“That may in the end be the only way to protect our country – our people, our trade, our territorial integrity, the peace process, and the benefits of this great UK of which we are all part.”
According to reports, the government has set a deadline of the end of next month for finding a way to avoid deploying nuclear power.
Article 16 would be triggered at the start of December, senior government officials told The Times, unless the EU began a “serious negotiation.”
Lord Frost presented his command paper in July, outlining his plans to rewrite the Protocol in order to make it more long-term sustainable.
It includes removing the European Court of Justice as the deal’s arbiter and eliminating cumbersome checks on goods travelling to Northern Ireland that have no risk of joining the single market.
Lord Frost remarked this morning, “We await a formal response from the EU to our proposals.”
“But from what I hear I worry that we will not get one which enables the significant change we need.”
“If we can agree something better, we can get back to where we wanted to be – an independent Britain with friendly relations with the EU based on free trade,” he added.
Next week, the European Commission is set to release its own suggestions to resolve the Protocol’s conflicts.
There are fears that Brussels would try to persuade the UK to accept its plan by presenting it as a “take it or leave it” deal.
Lord Frost has stated publicly and privately that such a negotiation technique would be unacceptable to the United Kingdom.