Brexit minister says UK not trying to move checks to Irish border

Brexit minister says UK not trying to move checks to Irish border

Lord Frost says triggering article 16 remains an option but he is hopeful of deal on Northern Ireland

The Brexit minister, Lord Frost, has said suspending parts of the Northern Ireland protocol by triggering article 16 of the agreement with the EU is still a “very real option” but has indicated that he hopes a deal can be done by Christmas.

He has also given assurances during a visit to Northern Ireland that the UK is not trying to move border checks and controls from the Irish Sea to the Irish border.

Frost met the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, in Belfast on Tuesday night and will be meeting the Sinn Féin leader, Michelle O’Neill, on Wednesday morning.

“We very much hope that we’ll be able to bring those talks to a conclusion, that’s what we would most like to do. If we can’t, if they can’t be in agreement, then obviously the famous article 16 is a very real option,” he told BBC Good Morning Ulster.

Frost also criticised the EU’s threat to retaliate with sanctions that include tariffs or the termination of the UK’s entire trade deal as unhelpful.

“I don’t see why it would help … for the response to that from the European Union to be sanctions, retaliation and making trade more difficult,” he said.

He repeatedly said article 16 was a “perfectly legitimate option” and rejected arguments that pulling the plug on the protocol would be a hammer blow to businesses that see the special arrangement for Northern Ireland as a unique “best of both worlds” opportunity to access Great Britain as well as the EU’s single market.

Business leaders also met Frost on Tuesday and reported that it was “the most positive” meeting they had had with him since the row over the protocol broke out.

One of the dozen who had dinner with him in Belfast said: “We felt we were being talked with, not at, for the first time. You could even say it was congenial. We all went in there thinking this is the precursor to pulling article 16 but he doubled down on wanting a deal.”

Fears have risen in recent weeks that the UK’s ultimate goal was to remove all checks on goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland to meet demands made by the DUP, which is campaigning for the protocol to be scrapped.

“We don’t see any need and I think it is one of the pieces of common ground in this whole negotiation that nobody wants to see infrastructure or checks at the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and there’s absolutely no need for that. And our proposals in the command paper don’t require it,” he told BBC Good Morning Ulster.

Frost said the UK was not seeking to scrap the protocol altogether.

“There will always have to be some sort of treaty arrangement between the UK and the EU covering Northern Ireland. But it’s got to be an arrangement that everybody can get behind.”

Asked why should people in Northern Ireland should trust him to represent their interests when his position appeared to be biased towards one side of the community, he said: “I think this government always will have the best interests of everybody in Northern Ireland.” es un sitio web oficial del Gobierno Argentino