Lord Frost tells President Biden to butt out of Northern Ireland row saying Britain ‘doesn’t need lectures from others about the peace process’ after the White House warns Boris Johnson not to pull the plug on EU talks about Brexit deal

  • Lord Frost used an appearance at a conservative US think tank to blast Biden 
  • White House this week told Boris to show ‘leadership’ and continue talks with EU 
  • PM threatened to pull plug on Northern Ireland Protocol that infuriates unionists

One of Boris Johnson’s former ministers told Joe Biden to butt out of the Northern Ireland Brexit row today, saying the UK didn’t need ‘lectures’ from outsiders.  

Lord Frost used an appearance at a conservative think tank in Washington DC to attack the US president for intervening in Britain’s ongoing stand-off with Brussels. 

Earlier this week the White House issued a slapdown to the Prime Minister after he threatened to alter the trade agreement agreed after the UK left the EU, because it is unpopular with unionists in Northern Ireland. 

The president’s spokesman told Mr Johnson to instead show ‘leadership’ and keep talking to EU envoys about the argument, which centres on a trade border Mr Johnson agreed to in the Brexit agreement, but now wants to remove.

Asked about Mr Biden’s interventions today after a speech to the Heritage Foundation, Lord Frost suggested his administration did not really understand Northern Ireland.  

‘I know the administration is looking at this very closely. I’m not convinced the niceties are well understood,’ the peer and former Brexit minister said.

‘I get slightly frustrated when we are told by a third party, albeit a very important one in this context, how to manage these issues.

‘It is our country that faced terrorism, faced the Troubles. I am old enough to remember having to check under my car every morning, as a diplomat, before I went to work. Most people were very affected in one way or another by this.

‘So we don’t need lectures from others about the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement. We are well aware of this and nobody wants to go back to it.

‘In the end it has got to be our judgement about what is needed to preserve that agreement and preserve the unity of the country and the consent of everybody in Northern Ireland for these arrangements.’

Lord Frost used an appearance at a conservative think tank in Washington DC to attack the US president for intervening in Britain’s ongoing stand-off with Brussels.

Earlier this week the White House issued a slapdown to the Prime Minister after he threatened to alter the trade agreement agreed after the UK left the EU, because it is unpopular with unionists in Northern Ireland.

The sausage war spat that threatens to undo the Brexit agreement 

The row over the Northern Ireland Protocol began almost as soon as the Brexit agreement with the EU came into force.

The UK’s departure from the block required the two sides to find a square peg that would fit into a round hole: how to avoid a hard border (IE checkpoints) between Ulster and Ireland and yet introduce a viable customs border between the EU and a new external ‘third party’ state.

The protocol avoids a hard border between by effectively keeping the North inside the EU’s single market. 

But it requires checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea from Britain.

This compromise incensed unionists who felt that it ‘othered’ an integral part of the UK. 

The UK began talks seeking to alter the terms of the agreement, despite it having been signed off by the PM just months earlier. 

And it introduced a waiver on checks on food and agricultural produce to ease supply problems in supermarkets. 

After a year of further negotiations between various ministers and Brussels got nowhere, unionists took action into their own hands in February.   

DUP first minister Paul Givan resigned in February in an effort to force movement.

This action left the Executive unable to fully function, due to the way it was set up to share power under the Good Friday Agreement. While ministers remained in post, they were restricted in the actions they could take.

Since 1998, when the governance system was devised as part of Northern Ireland’s historic peace accord, the first minister has always been a unionist.

But that all changed last week, when Sinn Fein became the largest party at Stormont for the first time ever.

But the DUP has insisted that it will not return until its demands over the protocol are met. 

It means that the assembly is still non-functioning. 

Since the election ministers have begun to again talk of replacing the protocol with domestic UK legislation. 

This would be illegal under international law and could cause the whole Brexit agreement to collapse. 

The Biden administration has also taken a dim view, urging continued talks to solve the problem. 

The EU today batted away pleas to overhaul the Northern Ireland protocol saying the bloc cannot ‘solve all the problems created by Brexit’.

Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic insisted there is no prospect of the bloc changing his negotiating mandate to resolve the deadlock.

In a speech to MEPs, he said: ‘We will not renegotiate the protocol. The EU is united in this position.’

But, after talks with Mr Sefcovic failed to secure a breakthrough, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss warned that the EU is leaving the UK with ‘no choice’ about acting unilaterally to axe the post-Brexit rules.

The standoff came after Attorney General Suella Braverman concluded that it would be legal to axe swathes of the post-Brexit rules for the province because they are causing social unrest.

There have been claims that Boris Johnson is preparing to trigger the move within days, despite warnings from the US and Europe.

According to the Foreign Office, Ms Truss told Mr Sefcovic the protocol was ‘the greatest obstacle’ to forming a new Northern Ireland executive.

The spokesman said: ‘The Foreign Secretary noted this with regret and said the situation in Northern Ireland is a matter of internal peace and security for the United Kingdom, and if the EU would not show the requisite flexibility to help solve those issues, then as a responsible government we would have no choice but to act.’

The PM has insisted that the Good Friday Agreement is more important than the Northern Ireland Protocol, dismissing suggestions of any possible escalatory response from the EU as ‘crazy’.

But today he took a more emolient stance, merely saying there is a ‘real problem’ that must be ‘fixed’.

‘Look, Northern Ireland is an incredible place, it’s got a fantastic future,’ he said on a visit to Stoke.

‘At the moment, very sadly, the institutions of democracy, the political governance of Northern Ireland, has collapsed.

‘The institutions set up under the Good Friday Agreement aren’t functioning. The executive, the assembly – they can’t form.

‘That’s a bad thing at any time, that’s a bad thing now when the people of Northern Ireland need leadership, they need a regional, a provincial government that will focus on the cost of living, on healthcare, on transport, on things that matter in their everyday lives.

‘They haven’t got that. That’s a real, real problem. And the reason they don’t have that is because there’s one community in Northern Ireland that won’t accept the way the protocol works at present – we’ve got to fix that.’

Ms Truss has warned she will ‘not shy away’ from taking action, accusing the EU of proposing solutions that would ‘take us backwards’.

According to a government readout of the conversation, Ms Truss told Mr Sefcovic the EU ‘bore a responsibility to show more pragmatism and ensure the protocol delivered on its original objectives’.

‘The Foreign Secretary reiterated that the UK’s proposals to fix the protocol, including green and red channel arrangements, backed up by a bespoke data-sharing system, would ensure the removal of trade barriers between Great Britain and Northern Ireland while protecting the EU single market,’ she said.

‘The Foreign Secretary outlined why EU proposals would take us backwards, by creating more checks and paperwork.

‘Vice President Šefčovič confirmed that there was no room to expand the EU negotiating mandate or introduce new proposals to reduce the overall level of trade friction.’

But Mr Sefcovic said in a statement following the call ‘simply not acceptable’ for the UK to axe the protocol.

‘It continues to be of serious concern that the UK Government intends to embark on the path of unilateral action,’ he said.

‘I am convinced that only joint solutions will work. Unilateral action, effectively disapplying an international agreement such as the protocol, is simply not acceptable.

‘This would undermine trust between the EU and UK as well as compromise our ultimate objective – to protect the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement in all its dimensions, while ensuring legal certainty and predictability for the people and businesses in Northern Ireland.

‘Such unilateral action will also undermine the conditions which are essential for Northern Ireland to continue to have access to the EU single market for goods.’

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