David Frost says ‘weakness’ of UK position shaped David Frost Northern Ireland Protocol negotiations
David Frost, Boris Johnson’s former Brexit negotiator, said the “weakness” of the UK’s position shaped the negotiations on the Northern Ireland Protocol, but he blamed a lack of pragmatism in the EU’s approach for the current difficulties.
Frost said the deal he negotiated while in Johnson’s government would only have gone smoothly if the EU had not fully implemented it.
In the foreword to a report by the centre-right think tank, he also challenged the Irish government’s focus on the “whole island” economy, which he said had been insignificant but had become a political tool.
Shaped by the relative weakness of the United Kingdom and the dominance of the European Union in the Withdrawal Agreement negotiations, the Protocol enshrines a concept – the entire island economy – that is politically suitable for the EU, Ireland and their allies but does not exist in real life, Frost writes in the introduction.
Boris Johnson is understood to be considering publishing a bill this week that would bypass parts of the protocol unilaterally, which has sparked outrage in Brussels and Dublin, amid an impasse between parties in Stormont.
Frost said implementation of the protocol had to take into account the “economic realities” of trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which the report says is minimal. Only 4% of goods and services produced in Northern Ireland cross the border into the Republic, 16% go to Great Britain, and 31% of imports into Northern Ireland come from the rest of the UK, the report said.
“The Protocol arrangements could only have succeeded if the EU’s regulatory framework was not fully implemented in practice (while recognizing, for example, the Protocol’s requirements to reduce checks and controls in Northern Ireland ports) and there was more pragmatism in its work,” he wrote. .
“As it were, the purity and accidentally destructive treatment of the European Union has undermined the bonds between East and West from the start and now puts the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement itself in grave danger.”
Northern Ireland’s former First Minister, Dave Trimble, who was the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party at the time of the Good Friday Agreement, agreed that there had been a “destabilizing effect” by talking about the island’s economy.
Lord Trimble said, “Today the Irish government has a different language in which the island economy is repeated endlessly.” “The Irish government is heightening the irredentist fears of having some economic motive for all the islands leading to political unity. This has had a destabilizing effect.”
Shadow Prosecutor Nick Thomas Symonds said: “Now is not the time to play the blame game about the way the protocol works. What we need is a practical way forward.
“The chaos in the Conservative Party should not prevent ministers from getting around the table and doing the hard work necessary to find a solution, and the EU must engage in a pragmatic spirit.”