World 'Hard to see' how Northern Ireland Protocol can remain sustainable, Brexit minister tells MPs
'They just need to get that into their heads': PM sends EU message over Northern Ireland row
Boris Johnson has vowed to "do whatever it takes" as he repeated his threat to suspend Brexit agreements with the EU over Northern Ireland. © Reuters Boris Johnson met with the EU's Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel The prime minister, who is in Cornwall for the G7 summit, spent Saturday morning holding talks with EU leaders amid an ongoing row over post-Brexit checks on trade moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
It is "hard to see" how the Northern Ireland Protocol can remain sustainable in its current form, the Brexit minister has told MPs.
Lord Frost said the UK government has not "made a secret of the fact that we find it hard to see how, as currently operated, important elements of the Protocol are sustainable".
A row over the Protocol, a key part of the Brexit deal struck between London and Brussels designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, has soured ties between the two sides in recent months and provoked protests in Northern Ireland.
As part of the arrangement, Northern Ireland remains under some EU rules and there are checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain.
UK-EU sausage spat sizzles on final day of G7 summit
UK accuses France of ‘offensive’ remarks that Northern Ireland was not part of the United Kingdom. © The dispute concerns post-Brexit trading arrangements in Northern Ireland [Stefan Rousseau/Reuters] The dispute concerns post-Brexit trading arrangements in Northern Ireland [Stefan Rousseau/Reuters] Ever since the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016, the two sides have been trying to work out how to deal with post-Brexit trade and the British province, which has a land border with EU member Ireland.
Lord Frost told MPs on the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee that the UK was "considering all our options".
"There is a real world timetable to things that needs to be taken into account when we do that," he continued.
"That's where we are at the moment, we are actively considering the options to deal with a situation that is hard to see as sustainable."
Lord Frost would not be drawn on a suggestion from Edwin Poots, the outgoing leader of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, that he had been given a personal assurance from the government there would be significant changes to the Protocol.
We Live in Donald Trump’s World
The G7 summit was stuck in time, between the era of Trump and the future.The irony of the situation neatly summed up the trouble with this year’s G7 summit. The gathering was supposed to mark a turning point, a physical meeting symbolizing not only the beginning of the end of the coronavirus pandemic but also a return to something approaching normalcy after the years of Donald Trump and Brexit. And in certain senses it was. With Joe Biden—the walking embodiment of the traditional American paterfamilias that Trump was not—no one feared a sudden explosion or American walkout as before.
"I can't comment on private conversations and accounts of them," he said.
Video: Brexit: solution to Northern Ireland protocol row 'easily doable', says Johnson (The Guardian)
Lord Frost told the committee the "basic problem" was the "chilling effect on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland is pretty strong".
"Until we began implementing the Protocol nobody could quite know that," he claimed.
Lord Frost urged the EU to adopt more "pragmatism", adding: "If their approach is simply to say 'you must just implement the EU customs code as if this were any other external frontier of the EU' then we obviously have a problem.
"There has to be more pragmatism and reasonableness than that about goods that never leave the UK customs territory."
No group should veto Ireland's future - Varadkar
The Irish deputy PM says he believes a united Ireland could happen in his lifetime. © EPA Leo Varadkar is the Irish deputy prime minister and the leader of Fine Gael He said while the views of unionists must be "acknowledged and respected", "no one group can have a veto on Ireland's future". He told delegates at Fine Gael's virtual Ard Fheis on Tuesday that he wanted to see the party establish a branch north of the border."We should be proud to say unification is something we aspire to," he said. "It should be part of our mission as a party to work towards it," the Fine Gael leader added.
He said progress was being made in some areas, in particular on extending the grace period on chilled meats such as sausages and mince, which expires at the end of the month.
"Both sides are thinking very actively about that," Lord Frost said.
"I wouldn't want to leave the impression that nothing is happening. Quite a lot is happening, in one or two areas there is engagement, in other areas it's more difficult."
Boris Johnson told Sky News earlier this month he is willing to "do whatever it takes" to tackle the issues caused by the Protocol.
Speaking to political editor Beth Rigby after talks with EU leaders at the G7 summit in Cornwall, the prime minister claimed that some within the EU "misunderstand that the UK is a single country and a single territory".
"I think they just need to get that into their heads," he added.
Mr Johnson also reiterated that he is prepared to invoke Article 16 of the Protocol.
That clause is intended to be used when the Protocol is unexpectedly leading to serious "economic, societal or environmental difficulties".
It allows either the UK or the EU to act unilaterally to avoid those difficulties.
The PM has said the current implementation of the Protocol is having a "damaging impact" on the people of Northern Ireland.
First British-Irish conference for two years .
The British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference is a product of the Good Friday Agreement.The meeting at Dublin Castle is the first British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC) in over two years.