Lord Frost tells the EU: We’ll never surrender over Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland 'very worried' about Article 16 says Bassett
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But he refused to put a timescale on whether negotiations with Brussels could be successfully concluded by Christmas, saying it was “somewhere between zero and a hundred”. The Brexit Minister also insisted he would not recommend any agreement that he did not believe safeguarded stability in the region. He said triggering Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol – which would suspend parts of the deal – is still “very much on the table” and its safeguards were legitimate.
The EU has warned the move would have “serious consequences” for the region and its relationship with the UK.
Lord Frost told the House of Lords yesterday than both sides wanted to resolve the dispute after supply issues led to a renewed surge in tensions in Northern Ireland.
He said: “Whatever messages to the contrary the EU think they have heard or read, our position has not changed.
“We would prefer to reach a negotiated agreement. That is the best way forward for the stability and the prosperity of Northern Ireland. That has always been our position. I suggest our friends in the EU don’t interpret the reasonable tone I usually use in my discussions as implying any softening in the substantive position.”
The protocol has seen additional checks on goods arriving from Great Britain as the region effectively remains within the single market to avoid a hard border on the island.
Unionists argue it damages ties between Northern Ireland and Great Britain by placing a frontier in the Irish Sea. Labour frontbencher Baroness Chapman of Darlington called on the minister to give his “percentage assessment of success” by Christmas.
Lord Frost said: “Between zero and a hundred to be honest. I don’t think it helps to put specific numbers on these sort of things.”
He insisted the UK would provide the necessary safeguards using Article 16, saying: “Those safeguards are very much on the table and are a legitimate provision in the protocol.”
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