Monday, 15 Aug 2022

Meddling SNP demands ‘urgent new path’ in Brexit row – Frost urged to ‘explain’ himself

Brexit: David Davis warns of 'three more years' of negotiations

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The Northern Ireland Protocol – agreed in the Brexit deal – is designed to avoid customs checks along the Irish border. But, trust was badly damaged in January when the EU moved to block the export of COVID-19 vaccines to Northern Ireland.

Tensions across Northern Ireland reached boiling point and the nation was rocked by street violence in April.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson threatened to rip up the Northern Ireland Protocol unless an agreement to ease EU red tape is found.

Ahead of his meeting with Lord Frost, Scotland’s External Affairs Secretary, Angus Robertson, warned tensions between Britain and the bloc were of “great concern”.

He said: “The ongoing tensions between the UK Government and the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol are of great concern.

“The entire issue could worsen the already damaging trade impact on Scotland of the UK Government’s hard Brexit, and have wider ramifications for EU-UK relations, including further eroding trust.”

He said a recent UK Government Command Paper on a new way forward for the post-Brexit deal “gambled” with Scotland’s EU trade.

Mr Robertson continued: “Lord Frost needs to explain to Scotland what the rationale is behind the UK Government’s high risk and potentially provocative strategy and provide reassurance that a damaging breakdown in relations can be avoided.

“Scotland is already suffering from the damaging economic impact of Brexit and being removed against our will from a market around seven times bigger than the UK.

“We need to do everything possible to avoid making that damage even worse, which is why I will be urging Lord Frost to ensure that the UK Government proceeds in a spirit of collaboration, not conflict, with the EU.”

A UK Government spokeswoman said: “It’s clear that the Protocol is not working in its current form and significant changes are needed to ensure that it is sustainable for the future.

“The protocol is causing disruption to the everyday lives of people in Northern Ireland – companies are stopping delivering to Northern Ireland, there are growing difficulties with medicines supplies, and products are disappearing from supermarket shelves.

“We have set out our proposals to resolve the serious issues with the Protocol in exhaustive detail in our Command Paper.

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“The EU needs to engage with us urgently on these issues – we are ready to move forward in a constructive way.”

Brexit minister Lord Frost urged significant changes are needed to the protocol and said “we cannot go on as we are”.

Lord Frost said “it is clear that the circumstances exist to justify the use of Article 16” but that “it is not the right moment to do so”.

He added: “Instead, we see an opportunity to proceed differently, to find a new path, to seek to agree with the EU through negotiations a new balance in our arrangements covering Northern Ireland to the benefit of all.”

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis urged the EU to carefully consider the UK government’s renewed proposals.

However, the EU said renegotiation is not on the table.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her ruling Government have continued to call for Scotland to rejoin the EU if it were to win independence.

The SNP leader has tried to use Brexit as a mandate to force another referendum, arguing the UK’s departure from the EU was completed against the will of the Scottish people, who voted by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent it in 2016.

Mr Johnson has refused to cave to those demands, insisting the first referendum from June 2016 was a “once in a generation event”.

Ms Sturgeon claimed Scotland was taken out of the EU “against the will” of the country, who voted to remain part of the bloc.

She said: “Scotland is a country and not a region of a unitary state. Scotland’s position is therefore unique – a country, in a voluntary union, which has been removed from the EU against the will of the majority who live here.”

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