No meaningful negotiating process to resolve NI protocol issues, says Frost
Brexit minister David Frost said ‘protecting the Belfast/Good Friday agreement is our top priority’. Photograph: Kirsty O’Connor/PA Wire
Brexit minister David Frost has complained Britain does not have a meaningful negotiating process to resolve its differences with the European Union over the Northern Ireland protocol. Speaking in the House of Lords, he said the proposals in his command paper in July demanding a wholesale revision of the protocol had brought “relative stability” in Northern Ireland in recent weeks.
“But obviously it’s one thing to put them forward and another to see them implemented. So we absolutely need to have a meaningful negotiating process with the EU, which we don’t quite have yet, to see if we can resolve them consensually and to know that quickly. And if we can’t, as I’ve said, other ways forward are possible,” he said.
Lord Frost rejected accusations that he was sabre-rattling and denied that relations with Brussels and Dublin were poor, although he acknowledged that they had significant differences. He agreed with former Labour MP Kate Hoey and former Conservative political adviser Jonathan Caine that the protocol was undermining the institutions of the Belfast Agreement. The protocol avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland by placing the customs and regulatory barrier between the EU and the UK in the Irish Sea.
“Protecting the Belfast/Good Friday agreement is our top priority; it was the overriding purpose of the protocol and it is why we are so concerned about the destabilising character of the way it is being implemented. Actually, I recognise and welcome the signals that the EU is beginning to understand this and reflect on it, but we still need solutions based on the ideas for significant change that were in our command paper,” he said.
Lord Frost outlined plans to remove the special status of laws introduced by the EU when Britain was a member and retained after Brexit, known as retained EU law. He said the government would review all such laws and to normalise those it decides to keep by giving them a clear legislative status within British law.
“Unless we do this, we risk giving undue precedence to laws derived from EU legislation over laws made properly by this parliament,” he said.
“I want to be clear, eventually, our intention is to amend, to replace, or repeal, all that retained EU law that is not right for the UK.”
He said the EU’s data privacy legislation GDPR would be replaced with a British system, EU rules on genetically-edited organisms will be changed, and there will be different regulations governing artificial intelligence. Former Ulster Unionist Party leader Reg Empey said that the protocol meant that many of the changes would not apply in Northern Ireland, so they would increase rather the regulatory gap with the rest of the UK.