The UK has launched an attempt to substantially rewrite the Northern Ireland Brexit protocol that Boris Johnson signed up to in 2019, arguing “we cannot go on as we are” given the “ongoing febrile political climate” in the region.
But as he unveiled the UK’s blueprint for an alternative, the Brexit minister stopped short of ripping up the document completely or arguing the time was right to trigger the article 16 provision that enables either the UK or EU to suspend part of the arrangements in extreme circumstances.
“These proposals will require significant change to the Northern Ireland protocol,” David Frost said. “We do not shy away from that. We believe such change is necessary to deal with the situation we now face.”
In a foreword to the 28-page document, Lord Frost and the Northern Ireland secretary, Brandon Lewis, say the proposals will “not dispense with many of its [Northern Ireland protocol] concepts” but hope to create “a stronger long-term foundation to achieve shared interests”. They add that the situation in Northern Ireland is “unsatisfactory” to “all sides” .
Speaking in the House of Lords, Frost called for a “new balance” in the protocol that will address the disruption to business and the trade barriers across the Irish Sea.