Lord Frost accuses EU of 'using' NI to 'reverse' Brexit in bitter attack

12 October 2021, 16:33 | Updated: 12 October 2021, 17:19

Lord Frost said the Northern Ireland Protocol is 'the biggest source of mistrust' between the UK and EU
Lord Frost said the Northern Ireland Protocol is 'the biggest source of mistrust' between the UK and EU. Picture: Getty

By James Morris

Boris Johnson’s Brexit minister has accused the EU of using Northern Ireland to try and reverse the referendum result as he demanded an overhaul to the protocol.

In a speech in Lisbon this afternoon, Lord Frost said the Northern Ireland Protocol is “the biggest source of mistrust” between the UK and EU.

The protocol is intended to ensure the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic stays open while protecting the single market, which Northern Ireland remains a part of.

However, the need for checks on goods crossing to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK has led to growing tensions, both within Northern Ireland and between London and Brussels.

The UK's Stephen Barclay and Boris Johnson with the EU's Jean Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier after the Brexit deal agreement in October 2019
The UK's Stephen Barclay and Boris Johnson with the EU's Jean Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier after the Brexit deal agreement in October 2019. Picture: Getty

Downing Street has said the UK had signed up to the protocol in "good faith" but the way it was being operated by the EU could not continue.

Lord Frost said in his speech that “for all kinds of reasons we need to fix this problem”.

He added the protocol, agreed two years ago amid parliamentary deadlock in the UK over Brexit, was a “moment of EU overreach”.

And, in a bitter attack on the bloc's negotiating tactics at that time, he claimed: “There's a widespread feeling in the UK that the EU did try to use Northern Ireland to encourage UK political forces to reverse the referendum result, or at least to keep us closely aligned with the EU.”

Lord Frost led the UK negotiating team which agreed the Brexit deal with the EU on 17 October, 2019.

Attempting to pressure Brussels to change the protocol, he said it would be a "historic misjudgment" for the EU to "say that the protocol, drawn up in extreme haste, at a time of great uncertainty, can never be improved upon".

He said his legal text would provide a "better way forward" and warned the UK could trigger Article 16 – which would allow it to override the protocol – if an agreement isn't reached.

"Northern Ireland is not EU territory," he said. "It is our responsibility to safeguard peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland."

His speech came one day before the EU is due to produce its own plans to resolve issues with the protocol, which has led to the creation of economic barriers between Northern Ireland and Britain.