Boris Johnson and Liz Truss were today urged to show the ‘same determination’ they have used to face down Vladimir Putin in Ukraine when it comes to Britain’s dispute with the EU over Northern Ireland.
Both the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have this week warned Brussels that the UK stands ready to override key parts of a post-Brexit agreement.
There are now expectations the Government will announce new laws to set aside elements of the Northern Ireland Protocol within days, with claims this could happen as soon as Tuesday.
The long-running dispute has been given added urgency since the result of last week’s historic Northern Ireland elections, which saw Sinn Fein replace the DUP as the largest party at Stormont.
The DUP have insisted they will not re-enter a powersharing administration in Northern Ireland until there is action on the Protocol.
And the unionist party today confirmed they would not nominate a speaker for the first sitting of the Northern Ireland Assembly, as part of their protest against post-Brexit trading arrangements.
This will leave the Assembly unable to function.
The EU has issued veiled threats to a bitter trade war with Britain, should the PM push ahead with unilateral action over the Protocol.
Meanwhile, there have been fresh suggestions that a post-Brexit US-UK trade deal could be put at risk if tensions over Northern Ireland escalate.
Lord Frost praised Boris Johnson and Liz Truss as ‘leaders’ over Ukraine and urged them to ‘show the same determination in Northern Ireland’
The PM and Foreign Secretary were praised for the way they have faced down Russian President Vladimir Putin
Unionists are concerned the Protocol has been detrimental to Northern Ireland’s status within the UK
Tory peer Lord Frost, who was in charge of Brexit negotiations with the EU before resigning from Government last year, today declared that ministers now have ‘no option’ other than to act unilaterally to override the Protocol.
In an article for the Telegraph, the former Cabinet minister revealed how he had previously contemplated ending talks with the EU and taking unilateral action last December, but decided against it due to worsening Covid rates.
With Ms Truss having replaced him at the head of UK negotiations and with Covid ‘in the rear-view mirror’, Lord Frost urged the Government to now act.
Claiming the Good Friday Agreement was ‘on life support’, he wrote: ‘There is an imminent threat to our ability to govern Northern Ireland and protect its people’s economic, trading and security interests.
‘It is obviously essential for the UK Government to be able to govern the whole country properly. That is why it needs to act – and has the absolute right and duty to do so.’
Lord Frost also offered a comparison between Britain’s efforts against Mr Putin over Ukraine and the Protocol row.
‘Sometimes Governments and their leaders must just do the right thing,’ he said.
‘Fortunately, doing the right thing is usually also the best thing for our country. Boris Johnson and Liz Truss have shown they are leaders in Ukraine.
‘They must now show the same determination in Northern Ireland, and finally re-establish self-government for the whole of the UK.’
The Protocol was designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit and imposed checks on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
But the EU’s ‘dogmatic’ and ‘rigid’ implementation of the Protocol has been blamed by British ministers for causing significant trade disruption.
The DUP and other unionists are also concerned the agreement has been detrimental to Northern Ireland’s status within the UK.
Ms Truss this week held what was described as a ‘tetchy’ phone call with EU vice-president Maros Sefcovic in their latest talks over changes to the Protocol.
The Foreign Secretary again blasted EU officials for failing to show ‘flexibility’ to solve trade issues.
But Mr Sefcovic hit back and raised the prospect of a bitter EU-UK trade war if Britain pushed ahead with unilateral action.
The Protocol row is also causing angst in Washington, with a delegation of influential US politicians due to fly to Europe within days for meetings about the Protocol row.
The Guardian reported that the delegation will be headed by US Congress member Richie Neal, the chair of Committee on Ways and Means, which has significant power over future trade deals.
In past comments on the Protocol row, he has claimed the US ‘will not entertain’ a post-Brexit trade agreement with Britain if there is ‘any jeopardy’ to the Good Friday Agreement.
Lord Frost declared that ministers now have ‘no option’ other than to act unilaterally to override the Protocol
The PM will save a final decision on whether to push ahead with unilateral measures over the Protocol until next week.
According to The Times, a decision will be formally announced on Tuesday.
Attorney General Suella Braverman, the Government’s chief legal adviser, has not denied reports that she’s already approved the scrapping of large parts of the Protocol with emergency legislation.
Speaking on the BBC last night, Mrs Braverman claimed that the need for UK action was ‘becoming painfully, apparently necessary’.
Fellow Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg today condemned the EU for trying to make Britain ‘feel bad’ about having left the bloc in the dispute over the Protocol.
The Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency told GB News: ‘I think it wants to make the UK feel bad about having left the European Union.
‘And that underpins its whole policy and it doesn’t really mind about the consequences of that.
‘We just have to get on with life and recognise that we have left. We have to make our own way.
‘We are an independent country, and what the EU wants and thinks is secondary.’