France and Germany explode as they accuse Frost of crossing line with Brexit threat
Nigel Farage: UK still has ‘unfinished business’ with Brexit
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In a warning shot to the bloc, the Brexit minister said he would not shy away from suspending the Northern Ireland Protocol. Lord Frost told the House of Lords on Monday night that the EU should take the UK’s proposals to rip up the Brexit deal “seriously” if it wanted to avoid the measures relating to the region collapsing. But this has infuriated envoys from Germany and France, who have suggested the bloc is ready to take a hardline approach to the row.
Andreas Michaelis, Germany’s ambassador to the UK, said: “Seems we are entering a new phase with regard to the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“Just as the EU becomes more pragmatic and understanding the UK adopts a less flexible line. Call that joint implementation.”
Catherine Colonna, France’s ambassador to the UK, said: “‘The reason the UK is so belligerent is precisely because the EU is so accommodating’ is an opinion we hear more and more here.
Julian King, the UK’s last European commissioner, urged officials in Boris Johnson’s Government to start listening to the EU’s complaints.
“So that’s both the German and French ambassadors in London who have chimed in publicly on this now,” he said.
Lord Frost and his EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic are expected to announce new rounds of negotiations over the post-Brexit border fix in the coming weeks.
The pair have already agreed to suspend the implementation of EU red tape in Northern Ireland to create space to find a permanent solution to end disruption in the region.
Downing Street has warned that without a wholesale renegotiation of the Brexit treaty, businesses in the area will be hit by shortages because of burdensome EU customs controls.
Whitehall officials have also warned of a return to violence because of Unionist opposition to the measures.
Lord Frost said his Command Paper, published in July, set out the tests the UK would apply to trigger Article 16, which allows either side to suspend the protocol if it is deemed to have a negative effect on everyday life.
He told the House of Lords: “I urge the EU to take this seriously. They would be making a significant mistake if they thought that we were not ready to use article 16 safeguards if that is our only choice to deal with the situation in front of us. If we are to avoid article 16, there must be a real negotiation between us and the EU.”
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Lord Frost signalled that he was frustrated by European Commission vice-president Mr Sefcovic’s insistence he will not accept a renegotiation of the protocol.
The Tory peer added: “A real negotiation does not mean the EU coming up with its own plans for solutions, within the framework of the existing protocol, and presenting them to us as ‘take it or leave it’.
“I was concerned by some of the comments we have heard from Commission representatives in recent days which seem to suggest they may be considering this way forward.”
The hardline rhetoric has irked the French, who want the Commission to present their own tough-talking response to Lord Frost.
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The German ambassador’s comments suggest that Berlin is also backing a face-off with the Brexit minister.
But the Commission has taken a more pragmatic outlook on his comments and refused to engage publicly so far.
Mr Sefcovic is understood to be keen to hold actual talks over the British and EU proposals to end the deadlock over the protocol.
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