The British government has said it wants to make “significant changes” to the Northern Ireland Protocol it agreed with the EU in an effort to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
In a paper published today (21 July), Brexit Minister David Frost (pictured) and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis say the protocol has not delivered on some of its core objectives, “notably the explicit commitments to protect Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market and to avoid disruption to everyday lives”.
They say that the terms of the agreement are leading to disruption to supply chains, increased costs, and reduced choice for consumers.
Frost expects resistance
“We recognise that there could be political resistance and frustration at the prospect of revisiting significant aspects of the protocol,” the paper says.
Frost told the House of Lords, however, that Britain would not be triggering article 16 of the protocol — which would allow it to suspend parts of the Brexit deal — without first talking to the EU.
He added that, while the British government believed using it was justifiable, “we have concluded that it is not the right moment to do so".
European Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič warned that the EU would not agree to a renegotiation of the protocol.
“We are ready to continue to seek creative solutions, within the framework of the protocol, in the interest of all communities in Northern Ireland,” he said in a statement.
Earlier this month, the commission announced a number of measures aimed at easing tensions over the operation of the protocol, including a three-month extension, to 30 September, of the ‘grace period’ for the movement of chilled meats from Britain to Northern Ireland.