Lord Frost says the EU has “definitely made an effort in pushing beyond where they typically go in these areas and we’re quite encouraged by that,” referring to the bloc’s proposals to drastically reduce customs procedures and paperwork linked with the protocol.
According to the Brexit minister, there is still “a lot of work to be done” and a “big gap” between the UK and the EU on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Lord Frost told reporters as he arrived in Brussels for meetings with his EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic that he was “looking forward to good discussions.”
He stated, “There’s a lot of work to do because there are gaps between us.”
Lord Frost said that the EU had “definitely made an effort in pushing beyond where they typically go in these areas and we’re quite encouraged by that,” referring to the bloc’s proposals this week to drastically reduce customs procedures and paperwork linked with the protocol.
“There is still quite a big gap and that’s what we’ve got to work through today and in the future.”
“The governance arrangements as we have them don’t work,” he said, reiterating the UK’s position that the European Court of Justice’s function should be eliminated from the treaty.
“We need to take the court out of the system as it is now and we need to find a better way forward.”
The negotiations come just days after Lord Frost threatened to disrupt Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit arrangements by invoking Article 16 of the Protocol.
The protocol is a fundamental component of the London-Brussels Brexit agreement, and it aims to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Northern Ireland remains subject to some EU rules as part of the agreement, and goods entering Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom are subject to checks.
However, after negotiating and signing the agreement, the United Kingdom has now proposed changes.
In an effort to calm the row over the protocol, the EU proposed cutting 80 percent of checks on some products going from the United Kingdom to Northern Ireland and halving customs paperwork.
As he issued four papers that officials took to London to begin urgent talks, Mr Sefcovic described the measures as “far-reaching” and “ambitious.”
However, the documents do not address the question of the ECJ, which is the last arbiter in alleged protocol violations under the current arrangement.
Mr Sefcovic told BBC Northern Ireland on Thursday that the EU has gone above and above in making its offer to the UK, but that he has no authority to revise the protocol.
Mr Sefcovic has stated that the EU has gone to great lengths to provide far-reaching compromises, but that he does not have the authority to rework the protocol.
“Now we should really do the last mile, work constructively with all the proposals we put on the table, put it finally to bed,” he said on The View.
“I believe that we could be in the home stretch with our proposals on the table, and, as I said, let’s try to solve all these issues before Christmas because I think that would be the best Christmas gift we can give to the people of Northern Ireland.”
“I have no mandate to renegotiate the protocol… the withdrawal agreement, protocol and trade and co-operation agreement, we signed it, we ratified it, it’s international law, and I think we should respect it,” he continued.