Let talks begin, says Lord Frost as EU proposes new deal with Northern Ireland

Lord Frost – Dan Edwards / Number 10 Downing Street

The EU appears to have ‘made significant progress’ with his offer of a new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland which drastically reduces border controls on British goods, Lord Frost said in calling for intensive talks with Brussels.

Brussels said it had gone “well beyond tinkering around the edges” of the Northern Ireland protocol and urged Britain to be “pragmatic” on its demands at the European Court of Justice, that the EU rejected.

Lord Frost wants strip EU judges of their role in Northern Ireland. The province is following certain single market rules to prevent a hard Irish border, and the UK has also called for a substantial overhaul of the protocol, which it says has had a chilling effect on trade.

Brussels has warned that Northern Ireland lose access to the single market if he has not accepted the jurisdiction of the EU’s highest court in Luxembourg, which has divided Tory MPs between those who welcome the offer and those who demand that Lord Frost stand firm on the ECJ.

In a sign that the threat to trigger article 16 To unilaterally suspend parts of the Northern Ireland protocol had been put on hold for now, the Brexit minister said he would work “very hard” to secure a deal with the EU.

Lord Frost said the reach of the ECJ remains a key issue in the talks set to start on Thursday.

Asked about the EU’s proposals, he told his peers: “Although other people can use the words red lines, I never do. We are starting a negotiation and we have a reputation for achieving positive results in the negotiations despite predictions that we would not. Hope we will do it again this time.

European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic said: “I have listened to and engaged the stakeholders in Northern Ireland. Today’s proposals are our real response to their concerns. We look forward to engaging seriously and intensely with the UK government, for the benefit of all communities in Northern Ireland. “

Maros Sefcovic, Vice-President of the European Commission - Reuters / Yves Herman

Maros Sefcovic, Vice-President of the European Commission – Reuters / Yves Herman

A solution is increasingly expected to be found to keep EU judges at bay in Northern Ireland.

The possible landing zone could be modeled on the EU’s treaty with Switzerland, where an independent arbitration panel resolves disputes. However, when questions about EU law are asked, the ECJ offers a point of view that should be taken into account by the panel.

An EU official said he was not sure the UK would agree to such a deal. “The Swiss-inspired model, the starting point of it, is that the Court of Justice remains at the top of the system. I don’t know how much this will change the deal from a UK perspective

“Should the UK insist on its constitutional concerns? Then there is a very big gap between the ideas we are putting on the table today and what the UK government is asking for. “

The official added: “This is a call for the UK to be realistic and focus on certainty, stability and predictability rather than focusing on these high level constitutional issues.”

Lord Frost warned that he would be ready to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol and unilaterally suspend parts of the treaty if negotiations fail. EU officials have warned they are ready to retaliate with legal action, arbitration and possibly trade tariffs if the clause is triggered.

“If the UK government is showing that kind of pragmatism, then we think it’s a way around it,” the official said in Brussels. “Of course we hope for the best and prepare for the worst and we cannot rule out the UK, however, will use Article 16.”

The proposals could remove up to 50 percent of controls on goods and about 80 percent of SPS controls, which relate to animal and plant health. Goods destined for Northern Ireland could only take one “expressway” when entering the province from Great Britain.

Brussels wants real-time access to UK trade databases in order to monitor products entering the Republic of Ireland, the EU’s external border, and for the UK to fully implement existing requirements in the Protocol on border posts.

Special exceptions to controls could be made for ‘national identity products’ such as British sausages to avoid further harm. outbreak of the sausage war which brought the UK and the EU to the brink of a trade dispute before the summer.

The plans have been compared to the ‘maximum facilitation’ or ‘max-fac’ strategy previously demanded by Brexiteers in 2019, with technological solutions used to minimize physical checks at the Irish border.

The proposals called for most customs formalities to be handled outside the border, with document checks carried out digitally.

When customs documents are required for shipments, the committee has significantly reduced its complexity and would only focus on the most basic details for shipments sent from the rest of the UK. This would mean that a truck would only have to complete one form per shipment instead of each individual item in the vehicle.

“We think this package is important. It goes way beyond tinkering around the edges, ”one official said. “It shows that we can find solutions to real problems without renegotiating the protocol. We propose a different model, less controls on the one hand, but on the other hand, more guarantees in terms of governance and more market surveillance.

Brussels dropped its demand for the UK to align with EU SPS rules, which it said would remove 100% of checks, but which were unacceptable to Lord Frost on the grounds of sovereignty.

This means that the EU will not offer pet passports for people wishing to take their dogs, cats and ferrets to Northern Ireland, as coverage of live animals would require full alignment with Brussels rules. Guide dogs will be able to freely accompany their owners on trips between GB and NI, which are part of separate proposals established before Wednesday’s package.

The official added: “Our proposals are not presented to the UK government today as a take it or leave it package. In an ideal scenario, we will have an agreed solution as soon as possible. “

The bold offer appears to have driven a wedge between Tory MPs, with some urging Lord Frost to stand firm in his demands on the ECJ. Others have greeted the proposals with cautious optimism, including those behind the “max fac” proposals two years ago.

Among them was Robert Buckland, the former justice secretary, who told the Telegraph on Wednesday: “It’s great that the EU is on the move and is ready to compromise.”

But David Jones, vice-chair of the European Research Group of Conservative MPs, said: ‘Lord Frost must stand firm, because the bottom line is that we will not complete our departure from the European Union as long as every part of the UK Uni will no longer be subject to the jurisdiction of the ECJ.

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