Frost calls for ‘flexible’ approach to Northern Ireland Protocol
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Brussels put forward measures on Wednesday to slash the red tape the arrangements have imposed on moving goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. But former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib said the EU’s proposals “don’t cut it”.
Mr Habib insisted the removal of the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in overseeing the protocol should be a “red line”.
He told Express.co.uk: “They don’t go far enough, they’re not acceptable and we need a red line to get rid of the ECJ.”
Mr Habib referred to Brexit minister Lord Frost’s claim on Wednesday that no “red lines” have been set for talks with the EU over the protocol, despite UK demands to axe the role of European judges.
He said: “My fear is that the EU has done enough optically to allow the Prime Minister to claim that we really got rid of the vast majority of the problems across the Irish Sea and do a fudge kind of deal and for the real problems to be yet again brushed under the carpet.
“I hope I’m wrong, I hope we have very intensive negotiations and Lord Frost stays firm in his position.
“But the fact that Lord Frost wouldn’t make the ECJ removal a red line on Wednesday suggests to me that things aren’t as good as they might be.”
Mr Habib added: “What we need is for Northern Ireland to be firmly back in the United Kingdom and a slight reduction in bureaucracy doesn’t get there.”
Mr Habib’s comments come as Lord Frost arrived in Brussels on Friday for talks with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic on EU proposals to reduce trading friction created by the post-Brexit arrangements for the Irish Sea.
The Brexit minister warned that a “big gap” remains between the EU and the UK.
He said: “So I think the EU has definitely made an effort in pushing beyond where they typically go in these areas and we’re quite encouraged by that, but obviously there is still quite a big gap and that’s what we’ve got to work through today and in the future.”
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Lord Frost said the role of the ECJ in policing the protocol will be an issue in the discussions with Mr Sefcovic.
“The governance arrangements as we have them don’t work – we need to take the court out of the system as it is now and we need to find a better way forward,” he said.
On Wednesday, the EU laid out measures to cut 80 percent of regulatory checks and reduce customs processes on the movement of goods, especially food and farming produce, between Britain and the island of Ireland.
Lord Frost has warned that the UK could move to suspend parts of the protocol, by triggering Article 16, if an acceptable compromise cannot be reached.
However, such a move could prompt retaliatory action on trade from the EU.
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