EU fears ‘being taken for idiots’ in Brexit battle as Lord Frost refuses to back down

Boris Johnson on Brexit trade deal 'teething problems'

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EU diplomats and officials believe Boris Johnson’s top Europe adviser has sparked a breakdown in trust between the two sides. It comes after his new Brexit minister suggested the bloc should stop sulking and “shake off any remaining ill will towards us for leaving”. One senior EU diplomat said that “trust was low” and those in Brussels fear that Lord Frost’s belligerent attitude could lead to a constant stream of rows.

The insider told the FT: “We can’t accept that we are being taken for granted or being taken for idiots.

“The opportunity here is that we can start a new cycle in our relationship and move on.

“The risk is we add insult to injury.”

The tensions were stoked by Downing Street’s decision to unilaterally extend a grace period from EU red tape for Northern Ireland.

No10 will override customs controls on trade between Great Britain and the region to allow its businesses to adjust to the Brexit deal’s protocol to prevent a hard border.

To avoid a hard border, Northern Ireland will continue to follow EU rules for goods, meaning the introduction of some checks in the Irish Sea.

But the controls have provoked fury amongst Unionists who fear the move has cut-off Northern Ireland from the mainland.

Whitehall insiders say that eurocrats do not understand the Good Friday Agreement and risk the peace process by insisting on the bureaucratic checks.

But Brussels will move to trigger legal action against Britain for the move to ignore the red tape requirements set out in the divorce deal.

Maros Sefcovic, the Commission vice-president in charge of Brexit, will meet EU ambassadors later today to discuss the issue.

It was said the top eurocrat was concerned that Lord Frost’s introduction as his UK counterpart will undo previous hard work to broker a smooth relationship.

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The Slovak diplomat had formed a positive working relationship with Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove before he was taken off Brexit duties.

And now Mr Sefcovic is upset that Lord Frost didn’t use a previously established “hotline” to communicate news of Downing Street’s plans.

UK officials insist Brussels was informed of the move ahead of its announcement last week.

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Lord Frost has told colleagues that the EU is far from blameless in the latest row.

He claims Brussels has been “unhelpful” in a number of areas since the post-Brexit trade and security deal entered into force on January 1.

The bloc’s proposed vaccines border on the island of Ireland and its shellfish export ban were cited as examples.

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