Boris Johnson’s former Brexit negotiator David Frost has said the “weakness” of the UK’s position has shaped negotiations over the Northern Ireland protocol, but blames a lack of pragmatism in the EU’s approach for current problems.
Frost said the deal he negotiated while in Johnson’s administration would only have gone smoothly if it had never been fully implemented by the EU.
Writing in a foreword to a report by the centre-right think tank Policy Exchange, he also challenged the Irish government’s focus on the ‘whole island’ economy, which he said had no impact but had become a political tool.
“Shaped by the UK’s relative weakness and the EU’s dominance in the Withdrawal Agreement negotiations, it enshrines a concept – the island-wide economy – that politically fits the EU, Ireland and their allies, but which in real life doesn’t exist. Frost wrote in the foreword.
Boris Johnson is considering publishing a bill this week that would unilaterally override parts of the protocol, one that has sparked anger in Brussels and Dublin amid a standoff between the parties in Stormont.
Frost said the protocol should have taken into account the “economic realities” of trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which the report says is minimal. Only 4% of goods and services produced in Northern Ireland cross the border into the Republic, while 16% go to Great Britain and 31% of imports to Northern Ireland come from the rest of the UK , the report said.
“The protocol arrangements could only have worked if the EU regulatory framework had not been fully applied in practice (for example taking into account the protocol’s requirement to minimize controls and controls in Northern Ireland ports) and much more pragmatism in its operation,” he wrote.
“As it was, the EU’s purism and its casually destructive approach undermined east-west connections from the start and now puts the Belfast (Good Friday) agreement itself in grave jeopardy.”
Former Northern Ireland Prime Minister Dave Trimble, who led the Ulster Unionist party at the time of the Good Friday Agreement, agreed there had been a “destabilizing effect” by talking about the economy of Northern Ireland. the whole island.
“Today the Irish government has another language in which the island’s economy is an endlessly repeated theme,” said Lord Trimble. “The Irish government is heightening union fears that there is economic propulsion across the island leading to political unity. That has had a destabilizing effect.”
Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow secretary for international trade, said: “Now is not the time to criticize the functioning of the protocol. What is needed is a pragmatic way forward.
“Chaos in the Conservative Party should not prevent ministers from sitting around the table and doing the arduous work needed to find a solution, and the EU must be pragmatic.”