Lord Frost lays out Article 16 timetable and warns EU ‘we cannot wait forever’

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"We cannot wait forever" - Lord Frost. Picture by Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street.

Brexit Minister Lord Frost has said he is prepared to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol as soon as next month, warning the EU “we cannot wait forever.”

Speaking at the Conservative party conference in Manchester, Lord Frost said the problems caused by the Protocol were having a damaging impact on Northern Ireland.

In his speech he warned Brussels that “tinkering at the edges” will not fix the problems caused by the Protocol and demanded the EU be more “ambitious” in attempts in finding a solution or the UK will “need to act.”

Lord Frost said:

“We cannot wait forever. 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.

“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.”

A senior government source told The Times newspaper “that unless the EU started to engage in a serious negotiation Article 16 would be triggered at the start of December.”

In July Lord Frost published his command paper which outlined his proposals to renegotiate the Protocol to make it more sustainable in the long term.

It included scrapping bureaucratic checks on goods travelling to Northern Ireland that have no risk of entering the single market and removing the European Court of Justice as the arbitrator of the deal.

Lord Frost said:

“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.”

The European Commission is expected to publish its own proposals to solve frictions caused by the Protocol next week.

There are concerns Brussels will attempt to pressure the UK into accepting its plan by putting forward its solution as a “take it or leave it” package.

Lord Frost has made it clear both in public and in private that such a negotiating tactic would be unacceptable to the UK.

Admitting the Protocol has always been a risk, the Brexit minister and former negotiator said the UK has signed up to the mechanism in a bid to protect the Good Friday Agreement.

Lord Frost said:

“We knew we were taking a risk – but a worthy one, in the cause of peace and protecting the Belfast / Good Friday Agreement.

“It was the right thing to do. It ended constitutional crisis.

“It meant our country could leave the EU, whole, free, and with real choices about the future.”

“The Protocol itself is now undermining the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

“Businesses, political parties, the institutions, and indeed all in Northern Ireland face instability and disruption.”

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