Boris sends Lord Frost to Belfast for crisis talks over NI protocol as EU issued warning

Edwin Poots on legal action against Northern Ireland Protocol

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The Cabinet Office Minister will visit Northern Ireland this week and hold talks with Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill over the Northern Ireland Protocol. has learned Lord Frost will also meet local businesses which have been affected by the post-Brexit trading arrangements.


The Protocol, which was incorporated into the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to help avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, has left Northern Ireland tied to a range of EU customs and regulatory rules.

Northern Ireland also remains part of the EU single market with Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards checks (SPS) made on certain products arriving from the rest of the UK under the arrangements.

But the Protocol has caused significant disruption to trade and shortages of some goods in supermarkets.

Unionist politicians in Stormont claim the situation is set to get worse later this year after grace periods which exempt supermarket suppliers expire.

They also called for the Protocol, which was negotiated as part of the UK’s exit deal from the EU, to be scrapped.

UK and EU officials have been holding talks before these grace periods expire to reach a compromise.

Ahead of the visit, a UK Government source said: “The Northern Ireland Protocol is an extremely important matter right now, we need sensible solutions.

“Whilst it brings many benefits including to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, it has created serious trade issues which need to be addressed.

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“We need to ensure that we can achieve a balance to ensure Northern Ireland remains part of the UK’s internal market whilst maintaining the Good Friday Agreement.”

Officials said Lord Frost’s trip will be “key” to ensuring Northern Ireland has a “positive future” ahead.

They added to this publication that the EU should be “working cooperatively with the UK” for a “pragmatic solution” to the protocol.

“We don’t want to feel like we are getting punished for leaving the bloc”, one official said.

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Ahead of the visit, Diane Dodds, Northern Ireland’s Economy Minister said Brussels must stop “punishing” Northern Ireland over Brexit.

Ms Dodds also said Northern Ireland businesses were experiencing continuing difficulties bringing in goods from Great Britain as a consequence of new red tape required under the Protocol.

Responding to an Assembly question from Sinn Fein MLA Caoimhe Archibald, she added: “In relation to the Protocol, we must absolutely sort out the damage that the Protocol is doing to those supply chains.”

Ms Dodds, who said she wrote to Lord Frost regularly, added: “Many of the difficulties that businesses encounter are not because of Brexit, they are actually because of the Protocol, and they’re because parties in this House voted and have stridently asked for the rigorous implementation of that Protocol.

“So we really do need to look at the whole picture for investment in Northern Ireland and we need to offer people a holistic view of what Northern Ireland has to offer.

“And I do hope that the government is listening and will listen and indeed that the EU will stop on this stubborn trajectory of punishing Northern Ireland, and not helping it, as it claimed so many times in the past it was willing to do.”

Ms Archibald had urged the minister to develop a strategy to enable the region to maximise the “opportunities” offered by the Protocol, in particular the “unique” ability to trade freely into the UK internal market and EU single market.

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