The EU appears to have “moved significantly” with its offer of a new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland that dramatically cuts border checks on British goods, Lord Frost said as he called for intensive talks with Brussels to begin.
Brussels said it had gone “far beyond tinkering at the edges” of the Northern Ireland Protocol and urged Britain to show “pragmatism” over its demands on the European Court of Justice, which the EU rejected.
Lord Frost wants to strip EU judges of their role in Northern Ireland. The province follows some single market rules to prevent a hard Irish border, and the UK has also called for a substantial overhaul of the protocol, which it says has had a chilling effect on trade.
Brussels warned that Northern Ireland would lose access to the single market if it did not accept the jurisdiction of the EU’s top court in Luxembourg, which has divided Tory MPs between those welcoming the offer and those demanding Lord Frost stand firm on the ECJ.
In a sign that the threat of triggering Article 16 to unilaterally suspend parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol had been put on ice for now, the Brexit Minister said he would work “very hard” to strike a deal with the EU.
Lord Frost said the reach of the ECJ remained a key issue in talks expected to begin on Thursday.
Asked about the EU’s proposals, he told peers: “Although other people may use the words red lines, I never do. We’re beginning a negotiation and we’ve got a track record of reaching successful outcomes in negotiations despite the predictions that we would not. I hope we will do so again this time.”
Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission vice-president, said: “I have listened to and engaged with Northern Irish stakeholders. Today’s proposals are our genuine response to their concerns. We are looking forward to engaging earnestly and intensively with the UK Government, in the interest of all communities in Northern Ireland.”