Parts of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal were ‘always provisional’, admits Lord Frost as he says it’s ‘not surprising’ that renegotiations are already needed

  • The minister’s comments came as fresh talks began on Northern Ireland Protocol
  • Lord Frost is in talks in Brussel with the European Commission’s Maros Sefcovic
  • He left the door open to a compromise on ECJ’s role in resolving trade disputes 

Parts of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal were ‘always provisional’, Lord Frost admitted yesterday.

The Brexit Minister’s comments came as fresh talks on the Northern Ireland Protocol began in Brussels with European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic.

Lord Frost said the Government always knew elements of the deal might be ‘difficult to make work in practice’ and it was ‘not surprising’ that renegotiation of the agreement was needed already.

The peer, who negotiated the deal, also left the door open to a compromise on the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in resolving trade disputes in the province.

Parts of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal were ‘always provisional’, Lord Frost admitted yesterday

Mr Johnson was accused of negotiating in ‘bad faith’ this week after ex-chief adviser Dominic Cummings said the Government planned to ‘ditch’ bits of the deal it didn’t like after the 2019 election, adding: ‘Cheating foreigners is a core part of the job.’

Lord Frost denied this but added: ‘The protocol was agreed at a particular moment. We knew some elements would possibly be difficult to make work in practice, and aspects were left open for discussions in 2020 and afterwards. 

‘I don’t think it’s surprising we found that was the case. The fact that the protocol has a consent mechanism for four years’ time showed we recognised it might be necessary to renew or otherwise consent for these arrangements.

‘In that sense they have always been a little bit provisional and open to review.’

He warned this week that disruption caused by EU checks on goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland was so great that the UK might trigger Article 16 of the Protocol, effectively suspending parts of it.

The Commission responded with concessions. But Brussels rejected the UK’s core demand to remove the ECJ as arbiter of disputes. Lord Frost said the Government would not allow the EU’s highest court to retain jurisdiction over a part of the UK.

But the two sides are said to be exploring a compromise based on the system for settling disputes between the EU and Switzerland, in which they would be dealt with by an independent arbitration panel.

Mr Sefcovic said he had no mandate to renegotiate the protocol, but added: ‘We could be in the home stretch with our proposals on the table. Let’s try to solve all these issues before Christmas.’

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