Lord Frost swipes at EU motives for Northern Ireland row

Lord Frost swiped that the EU needs to move away from ‘ill-will’ over Brexit today as the Northern Ireland row rages.

The Cabinet Office minister suggested resentment over the UK’s departure from the bloc was linked to the hard line it is taking over enforcement of the protocol in the province.  

The European Commission is preparing to launch legal action after the UK announced it is unilaterally extending a series of ‘grace periods’ designed to ease trade between the mainland and Northern Ireland – which remains in the EU single market for goods.

Fears have been rising about sectarian tensions with unionists saying the EU is imposing unnecessary checks and demanding the arrangements are abandoned altogether. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said last week that jealously over the UK’s faster vaccine rollout was partly to blame for the stance by Brussels.   

Fears have been rising about sectarian tensions with unionists saying the EU is imposing unnecessary checks and demanding the arrangements are abandoned altogether. Pictured, a placard near Larne Port in Northern Ireland last week

Fears have been rising about sectarian tensions with unionists saying the EU is imposing unnecessary checks and demanding the arrangements are abandoned altogether. Pictured, a placard near Larne Port in Northern Ireland last week

Fears have been rising about sectarian tensions with unionists saying the EU is imposing unnecessary checks and demanding the arrangements are abandoned altogether. Pictured, a placard near Larne Port in Northern Ireland last week

Lord Frost swiped that the EU needs to move away from 'ill-will' over Brexit today as the Northern Ireland row rages

Lord Frost swiped that the EU needs to move away from 'ill-will' over Brexit today as the Northern Ireland row rages

Lord Frost swiped that the EU needs to move away from ‘ill-will’ over Brexit today as the Northern Ireland row rages

The EU claims the UK is going back on its treaty obligations. Pictured, EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen, with European Council president Charles Michel in the background

The EU claims the UK is going back on its treaty obligations. Pictured, EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen, with European Council president Charles Michel in the background

The EU claims the UK is going back on its treaty obligations. Pictured, EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen, with European Council president Charles Michel in the background

Ministers wrangle with the EU over trade rules 

Ministers are to step up the war with the EU Commissioner known as ‘Calamity Kyriakides’ by blocking imports of fashionable mineral waters such as San Pellegrino and Perrier.

Environment Secretary George Eustice has been so infuriated by Brussels’ ban on supplies of shellfish from the UK that he is planning to end Britain’s ‘rollover recognition’ of natural mineral waters from the EU in retaliation.

At the centre of the row is Stella Kyriakides, the EU Commissioner also responsible for the debacle over EU vaccine supplies.

Meanwhile, there are claims that the government is looking to soften plans for checks on other EU food and imports.

Lord Frost is said to be debating whether to bring in ‘lighter touch’ controls from April 1 and relax full customs checks scheduled for July 1.

Insiders claim the move has come amid fears tough inspections could impact UK supermarkets.

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But the EU claims the UK is going back on its treaty obligations.

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Lord Frost said the move was lawful and designed to protect the everyday lives of people in Northern Ireland.

‘With Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, our agenda is one of an outward-looking country, confident we can work with others towards common goals,’ he said

‘That is our hope for our ties with our European friends and allies too. I hope they will shake off any remaining ill will towards us for leaving, and instead build a friendly relationship, between sovereign equals.’

The Northern Ireland protocol in the Withdrawal Agreement was designed by the EU and UK to avoid a hardening of the border on the island of Ireland.

It means keeping Northern Ireland aligned to various EU rules, requiring checks on goods arriving into the region from Great Britain.

Meanwhile, the Uk’s chief negotiator in Northern Ireland from 1997 to 2007 said Lord Frost had chosen to ‘poke a stick in the eye’ of the bloc by taking unilateral action on the grace periods.

Jonathan Powell, who was also Tony Blair’s chief of staff, said the move was a reprise of Lord Frost’s ‘disastrous tactical manoeuvre during the negotiations last year of breaking international law by unilaterally abrogating the protocol in the Internal Market Bill, which later had to be humiliatingly withdrawn’.

Writing in The Sunday Times, he said: ‘The only safe option is to find a way to make the protocol work better, which means trying to rebuild trust with the Irish and with the commission rather than attacking them.’

DUP leader Arlene Foster has criticised Brussels for taking a ‘very belligerent approach’ to the difficulties caused by the protocol post-Brexit, suggesting that it is now clear the bloc does not care about the peace process and was only using it as negotiating leverage.

Mrs Foster also said ‘something had to give’ and the UK had to take action and extend a grace period.

Meanwhile, the White House has again stressed the support of new US President Joe Biden for the Good Friday Agreement, which the protocol is intended to protect.

Prior to last year’s election, Mr Biden – who is famously proud of his Irish roots – warned the agreement must not become a casualty of Brexit.

Arlene Foster

Arlene Foster

Kwasi Kwarteng

Kwasi Kwarteng

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng (right) last week linked the increasingly bitter row of the Brexit divorce terms to the contrasting performance on jabs. DUP leader Arlene Foster (left) has branded Brussels ‘belligerent’ and warned its treatment of Northern Ireland is putting peace at risk

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