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Brexit: Chief negotiator Lord Frost says Brussels needs to ‘shake off any remaining ill will’ over UK’s EU exit
March 7, 2021
The UK’s chief negotiator has said the EU should “shake off any remaining ill will” over the UK’s decision to leave the bloc, as the row over post-Brexit border arrangements rumbles on.
Cabinet Office minister Lord Frost said the government’s unilateral decision to extend a series of “grace periods” in the Northern Ireland Protocol designed to ease post-Brexit trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland was lawful.
“With Boris Johnson as prime minister, our agenda is one of an outward-looking country, confident we can work with others towards common goals,” Lord Frost wrote in an article for The Sunday Telegraph.
“That is our hope for our ties with our European friends and allies too.
“I hope they will shake off any remaining ill will towards us for leaving, and instead build a friendly relationship, between sovereign equals.”
A UK government spokesperson defended the move earlier this week, describing it as a “temporary and technical” step that “largely” continues measures already in place.
And speaking on Sunday, the prime minister sought to play down the protocol row.
“I think this is one of those issues we were always bound to have in the early stages of our new relationship with our friends in the EU and the various technical issues we are going to iron out,” he said.
Mr Johnson added that he was “full of optimism about the future and the partnership we are building”.
In an effort to ensure there is no hard border on the island of Ireland, the protocol allows Northern Ireland to remain under some EU rules.
But this means there has to be customs declarations on goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain, including checks on some products.
Light-touch regulation schemes on goods from the rest of the UK transiting to Northern Ireland had been due to expire at the end of this month – after which businesses would have had to fully comply with new post-Brexit rules – but now they won’t end until October.
First Minister Arlene Foster has called for the “disastrous” arrangement to be scrapped, saying it had been “absolutely devastating” for Northern Ireland.
Ms Foster said she welcomed the government’s decision to extend the grace periods, but told LBC Radio that “there’s much more to do” and “the architecture of the protocol itself needs to be dealt with”.
“There are other alternatives; of course those alternatives were rejected by the European Union, whether it was alternative arrangements, whether it was their own smart borders or indeed mutual enforcement which, of course, could be put in place as well,” she told the Swarbrick On Sunday programme.
“In order to find a solution, you have to have people who are willing to look for a solution, and up until now when we have indicated that the entire unionist community in Northern Ireland want this protocol gone.
“The answer you get from the European Union is ‘Yes, we should have more protocol’. It’s crazy, absolutely crazy.”
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But the UK’s move has provoked fury in Brussels, with the bloc saying it will launch legal action.
European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic, who is in charge of implementing the protocol on behalf of the EU, has described the UK’s action as a “very negative surprise”.
The Irish government has also reacted with anger to the UK government’s action, suggesting Britain had shown itself to be untrustworthy in negotiations over the implementation of the protocol.
On Thursday, the European Parliament declined to set a date to ratify the Brexit trade deal as part of the row.