Brexit: David Frost on Theresa May’s EU negotiations
Lord Frost this week warned of a long-term chill in relations between the UK and the EU if previously agreed trading arrangements governing Northern Ireland are not resolved. In a speech at the British-Irish Association in Oxford, he said that the Northern Ireland Protocol needed “substantial and significant change”. As part of the post-Brexit trading arrangement between the UK and the EU, some customs and border checks have been imposed on goods moving between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
But it has been a source of contention with either side accusing the other of not following the rules, the EU going as far as to trigger Article 16 of the Brexit deal which effectively created a hard border on the island of Ireland, furthering an already tense political situation earlier this year.
Now, the European Commission, headed by Ms von der Leyen, said it would not consider a complete overwriting of the Brexit treaty but accepted Lord Frost’s refusal to implement EU red tape in Northern Ireland for the foreseeable future.
He had announced further delays to some Irish Sea border checks that were due to be enforced as part of the Brexit divorce deal.
It is not the first time Lord Frost has refused to move in step with the EU and allow the UK’s requests to go unheard.
David Frost: The UK’s chief Brexit negotiator made the comment during talks
Brexit: Lord Frost took the EU to the wire
Last year, in drawing up a deal and pressing the EU, he took the bloc and its leaders to the wire.
In July 2020, when the UK and EU were approaching a deadlock, Lord Frost delivered Ms von der Leyen a furious message about Britain’s want of sovereignty.
While progress had, at the time, been made on issues like trade, goods and services, transport, social security cooperation and participation in EU programmes, he noted that “big differences” remained.
He told The Daily Telegraph: “When we began this intensified negotiating process a month or so ago the Prime Minister set out the principles to Commission President von der Leyen that were intrinsic to our status and future as an independent state.
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Michel Barnier: The EU’s Brexit negotiator with Lord Frost
“And the EU has heard some of that, it hasn’t heard all of it, and the bog underlying difficulty is the fact that the EU has not yet recognised that it needs to adapt its position to those principles if we’re going to reach an agreement.
“It’s clear that until the EU has internalised and accepts that we will be an independent state with the right to determine our own laws, control our own fishing grounds, then it will be difficult to reach an agreement.”
In the months after the speech was made, the EU repeatedly claimed that it could not work with the UK’s demands.
It said the most likely scenario was a no deal Brexit, in which the two would trade on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
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Ursula von der Leyen: She claimed that a no deal Brexit was likely
Boris Johnson: The PM and Lord Frost shortly after signing the Brexit trade deal
Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed this.
As late as December 2020, Ms von der Leyen was confident in her warnings that there was a greater chance of a no deal scenario than an agreement.
Yet, later on in the same month, the EU capitulated and, in what was described as an eleventh hour deal, agreed to a free trade deal with the UK.
The UK then went on to officially leave the single market and customs union at the turn of 2021.
Details of the plan were widely seen as a victory for the UK after years of uncertainty.
Although many aspects of the deal were viewed as having compromised certain sectors.
The UK’s fishing industry accused Mr Johnson of betrayal.
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At the time, Barrie Deas, Chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO), told Express.co.uk: “It’s the top of government: the decision was made to sacrifice fishing in order to secure a trade deal.
“That lies within Boris Johnson’s hands and his top advisors.
“What we found difficult to accept was that the Prime Minister and the senior cabinet officials, including the chief negotiator, had all provided assurances that fishing wouldn’t be sacrificed in the same way that it was in 1973 for other national objectives – that in some ways it had a special status.
“The phrase that was used by one of the advisers was that fishing had a “philosophical level of protection”, meaning that it wasn’t just another service that was affected by Brexit.
Deal signed: The UK left the single market and customs union on December 31, 2020
“They said it had been tied into an asymmetric and exploitative relationship with the EU right from the outset, and that here was an opportunity to break free of it.
“Of course, that didn’t prove to be the case.”
Meanwhile, both the UK and EU are expected to to continue their head-to-head over the Northern Ireland Protocol in the coming weeks.
Downing Street is calling for a complete overhaul, while the European Commission said it would would continue to put off legal action that it triggered against Britain for previously unilaterally extending the grace periods.