The former Brexit minister and UK chief negotiator has called on Boris Johnson to unilaterally abandon the Northern Ireland Protocol. Speaking at a Policy Exchange event on Wednesday April 27, Lord Frost said: “Our relationship with the EU cannot be linked to Northern Ireland indefinitely.
“The failure to reach a lasting settlement of the protocol means that a huge, if not unbearable, burden has been placed on the fragile politics of Northern Ireland as a result.”
He said Mr Johnson should use the provision of Article 16 to suspend the controversial protocol, warning that the peacekeeping Good Friday Agreement is “on life support”.
He also stressed that the Northern Ireland protocol was “designed to be temporary” and can be revoked by a vote of the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2024.
Under the protocol, the assembly must vote periodically to give its continued consent to Articles 5 through 10, with the first vote to take place in December 2024.
This allows Northern Ireland to decide whether to stay in the deal or choose to leave it.
The consent mechanism was activated at the end of the Brexit transition period at 11 p.m. on December 31, 2020.
After four years, in 2024, the UK must give Northern Ireland the chance to vote on the provisions.
Lord Frost said protocol was the only way to deliver Brexit by the time Mr Johnson became prime minister in 2019.
He explained: “By then we would have seen, at best, a second referendum, most likely Brexit taken off the agenda for good, and who knows what consequences for our domestic politics.”
The UK government has argued that the deal is “not sustainable” as it splits the UK’s internal market and causes an imbalance in the Good Friday Agreement.
Mr Johnson also told the House of Commons on Wednesday that the Northern Ireland protocol needed to be “rectified”.
He responded to a question from DUP MP Jim Shannon, saying: “There is clearly an economic cost to the protocol. It also turns into a political problem and an imbalance of feelings about it.
“We must rectify this balance in the interests of the Good Friday Agreement on which this country depends.”
The UK government is preparing new legislation to allow MPs to override the Northern Ireland Protocol.
A UK government spokesperson said: “No decision has yet been made and our top priority continues to be the protection of peace and stability in Northern Ireland.
“As we have always said, the government will take action to save the Belfast (Good Friday) agreement if solutions cannot be found to correct the protocol.”
Talks with Brussels to resolve differences over the protocol have stalled in recent months.
So what do you think? Should Northern Ireland vote to scrap the protocol after Frost highlights the clause that allows it? Vote in our poll and join the debate in the comments section below.