Northern Ireland public don’t back you over Brexit talks, Lord Frost told

Polls shows strong support for the Northern Ireland protocol

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Wednesday 17 November 2021 10:32
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<p>Brexit minister Lord Frost </p>

Brexit minister Lord Frost

Lord Frost has been told the Northern Irish public do not back him in negotiations with the EU as he seeks to tear up the Brexit agreement.

In an interview on BBC Radio Ulster it was put to the Brexit minister that "poll after poll" showed the public backed keeping the protocol as it was.

And it was pointed out that a majority of parties in the Northern Ireland assembly supported keeping the protocol – which the UK government has threatened to scrap.

The latest poll conducted for Queen’s University Belfast last month shows support for the protocol growing, with 52 per cent of respondents saying the post-Brexit arrangements are a “good thing” – up from 43 per cent in June.

But when it was suggested there was no "widespread antipathy" towards agreement he was out to change, Lord Frost denied this was the case.

"I don't think it's true from the polls I've seen that there's widespread support for the way the protocol is working," he told BBC Radio Ulster.

"There is a division of opinion on the subject and I think one of the things we have learned in Northern Ireland is that it is very important, if you can, to try and proceed by consensus, with cross-community support with the maximum possible of buy-in to solutions and that appears not to be the situation with the protocol at the moment, and we would like to design, to negotiate, to agree something that everybody can get behind.

"We have said, we repeat, that there 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."

Lord Frost used the interview to re-state his longstanding the position that triggering Article 16 of the protocol and effectively suspending it was a "very real option" and "legitimate". Triggering Article 16 would not require a vote in parliament under the terms of the treaty.

Asked about Irish Foreign Affairs minister Simon Coveney's assessment that a deal would be done on the protocol before Christmas, Lord Frost told the broadcaster: "I would like to progress this as fast as we possibly can, I'm glad there's ambition on the EU side ... I think it can be done.

The Brexit minister also against declined to talk about his "detailed negotiating position" – which he has refused to release for scrutiny to either MPs or the public.

The UK is concerned that the protocol, which Lord Frost negotiated just two years ago, is disrupting trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It was designed to keep the border open between Northern Ireland and the Republic, in order to support the Good Friday Agreement.

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