UNITED KINGDOM: Sunak’s Northern Ireland protocol agreement has come under criticism from the former Brexit negotiator for Boris Johnson, who admitted that it would “help” but would not repeal EU law in Northern Ireland.
Lord Frost said that some Conservative Party members had signed on to the new pact “without much clear thought or scrutiny.”
“Because they are weary of the issue as a whole, the majority of our political class is opting not to look too carefully at any of this,” he said.
In a column published in the Daily Telegraph on Wednesday, Frost makes the case that the government was “guilty of some overclaiming” when it claimed that there is “now no border in the Irish Sea.” He also says it’s not true that Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said the deal “ends all trade barriers.”
He said that the EU’s interpretation of the agreement calls for “a reduction, but not a complete elimination, of customs requirements” for goods going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
Even if it is said that he negotiated in bad faith, he says that the 1,700 EU laws that the government says are not being used are being taken away by an EU law that he proposes.
The peer also raises concerns about the Stormont lock, which gives Assembly members in Northern Ireland the ability to block new EU laws, stating that given the requirements, the government will eventually have the authority to use it.
As Sunak answers his first set of prime minister’s questions since the agreement, it may become clear whether he will face any significant opposition to the agreement from the Euroskeptic lawmakers in the European Research Group.
The ERG is still reviewing the formal documentation, much like the Democratic Unionist Party, which has been boycotting the Northern Ireland government in opposition to the agreement. But the response has been subdued thus far.
One of the driving forces behind Johnson’s attempts to secure a hard Brexit deal from the EU, which would have excluded the country from the single market and the customs agreement, was Frost, who left his position in 2021 after a disagreement over how the government handled the pandemic.
There are rules about Northern Ireland in the set of agreements that are supposed to keep the border on the island of Ireland from being seen. This policy was implemented after Theresa May offered a softer Brexit.
Frost says that even though the UK signed the legally binding withdrawal agreement, he never meant to agree to the protocol. Instead, he says, he went along with it in hopes of changing it later.
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