Brexit: Northern Ireland protocol 'unsustainable' says Burns
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The former Brexit minister and negotiator hit out at President Biden and his allies for issuing threats against the UK over attempts to renegotiate the Northern Ireland Protocol. The US President has repeatedly warned Britain not to rip up the Protocol and has vowed not to sign a free trade deal with the UK while rows over Brexit continue.
Ministers this week warned they feared negotiations with the EU were failing and unilateral action to suspend elements of the international agreement might be needed.
In response, the White House made clear its opposition to any such action, with a spokeswoman saying: “The best path forward is a pragmatic one that requires courage, cooperation and leadership.
“We urge the parties to continue engaging in dialogue to resolve differences and bring negotiations to a successful conclusion.”
Lord Frost today criticised the US for failure to understand the complex nature of Northern Ireland politics and urged them to be “cautious in what they say and what they do” on Brexit.
“Honestly, I’m not convinced the niceties of Northern Ireland are understood by this administration and I hope they will think hard before telling a friendly Government how they must act to protect the unity and territorial integrity of their own country,” he said while addressing an event organised by The Heritage Foundation in the US capital.
The former civil servant spoke of his own experiences of political unrest in Northern Ireland as he suggested the US should not tell the UK how to respond to the frictions with the EU.
He said: “I guess I get sort of slightly frustrated when we are told by a third party – all be it a very important one in this context – how to manage these issues.
“It was our country that faced terrorism, faced The Troubles.
“I’m 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.”
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Ministers have warned that the Protocol is undermining the Good Friday Agreement as it does not share the support of both Unionists in the province.
The Democratic Unionist Party, which finished second in last week’s Northern Ireland Assembly elections, has refused to join a power-sharing executive with Sinn Fein until its concerns with the Protocol are addressed.
Northern Ireland’s complex political system requires the largest two parties to govern together in order to represent both Loyalists and Separatists.
The DUP’s refusal to join Sinn Fein effectively leaves the province without a government.
The Protocol requires customs checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea from Great Britain, effectively leaving Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market and cutting it off from the rest of the UK.
Ministers say the heavy-handed implementation of bureaucratic checks by the EU has made the Protocol unsustainable.
Lord Frost told attendees of today’s event: “The Protocol arrangements could only have worked with delicate handling but they have not had it.
“Unless the EU now agrees to renegotiate that Protocol – and we have apparently been told this morning that will not happen – I think the UK Government will have no option but to act unilaterally to correct its weaknesses.”
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