Saturday, 17 Apr 2021

Brexit row explodes: EU order Lord Frost to ‘wake up’ after he accused Brussels of sulking

EU-UK relations have been ‘bumpy’ since Brexit says Frost

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The Prime Minister’s top Europe adviser accused the bloc of having “significantly undermined” post-Brexit measures in Northern Ireland with its threat to bloc coronavirus vaccine exports. He said called for Brussels to “shake off any remaining ill will” towards Britain for leaving the bloc. “Our agenda is one of an outward-looking country, confident we can work with others towards common goals,” he wrote in the Sunday Telegraph

“That is our hope for our ties with our European friends and allies, too. I hope they will shake off any remaining ill will towards us for leaving, and instead build a friendly relationship, between sovereign equals.”

Lord Frost is set for an almighty row with the bloc over his announcement that he would unilaterally suspend supermarket checks on deliveries to Northern Ireland supermarkets.

Grace periods from EU red tape are set to expire at the end of the month but No10 wants to give businesses and communities in the region more time to adapt to the Brexit divorce deal’s Northern Ireland Protocol.

To prevent a hard border, the region effectively remains in the EU’s single market, meaning there are a number of customs controls on Great Britain-NI trade.

The mechanism has caused disruption to some food supplies and online deliveries to Northern Ireland.

It has also sparked Unionist fury that Downing Street fears could harm the Northern Ireland peace process.

Lord Frost has defended his actions as lawful and designed to protect businesses and communities in Northern Ireland.

He is expected to hold further talks on the issue with EU Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic this week.

Brussels sources told Lord Frost to “catch up to reality”, suggesting the Cabinet Minister’s message was purely domestic and would not sway the EU’s decisions.

An EU diplomat told the Times: “If this were, indeed, a message for the EU, why publish it in the Telegraph?

“The world has moved on since Lord Frost last held the helm during the negotiations last year.

“He would be well advised catching up to the reality where both sides share responsibility for making this relationship work.”

Some in Brussels fear that Lord Frost will bring a far more combatant approach to dealing with the bloc compared to the more co-operative stance of Michael Gove, the minister previously in charge of Brexit.

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An EU source said: “It does not feel like Frost is trying to make the protocol work or the new relationship.

“The feeling and suspicion is much more that he wants to tear things down.”

Brussels is set to press on with opening legal action against the Government over Lord Frost’s move to scrap EU red tape.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson played down the dispute as technical issue that “we’re going to iron out”.

He said: “I think that this is one of those issues that we were always bound to have in the early stages of our new relationship with our friends in the EU.”

With Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove stepping away from Brexit to take charge of the Union, Penny Mordaunt has been appointed as Commons minister on the Europe brief.

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