British Brexit minister David Frost threatens to withdraw the Brexit agreement on Northern Ireland again if a “sustainable solution” to the trade dispute with the EU over the British part of the country is not found.
In a statement following the Brussels summit, he stated that” there seems to be potential momentum “for solving some of the problems, but there remains a” significant gap ” between the two sides.
Frost will be meeting EU Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič again in London next week to continue the negotiations, he said. According to Šefčovič, the time has come for decisions. “We need to shift to a result-oriented attitude, ” he said.
Just a week ago, Šefčovič was satisfied with Frost’s “different tone” in the high-pitched conflict over Northern Ireland. “It is essential that this changed tone now leads to joint, tangible solutions.”In particular, measures to make the supply of medicines to Northern Ireland more flexible call for an urgent deal.
Northern Ireland has remained part of the European Single Market after the UK left the EU, with the agreement of London and Brussels. Therefore, all goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) must now comply with European rules. This agreement is proving unworkable, London argues.
This arrangement was chosen so that there would not be another hard border between Northern Ireland and EU member state Ireland after Brexit. In 1998, the UK and Ireland signed a peace treaty, the so-called Good Friday Agreement, which ended years of violence between British-minded Protestants and pro-Irish Catholics. An open border was an important part of that. Re – establishing a hard border could re-ignite the conflict and is therefore taboo.
Brussels believes that the EU made a major contribution last month with a package of proposals on reducing, among other things, customs formalities in Northern Ireland. The European Commission, which negotiates on behalf of the EU, also proposes simplified inspection criteria for, for example, foodstuffs.
But Frost doesn’t think it’s enough. “A sustainable solution means that goods from Great Britain can in fact go freely to Northern Ireland if they stay there, ” he says.