The UK Government is “keeping all options on the table” to resolve issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol, including triggering a clause which would allow the unilateral overruling of the agreement.
Brexit minister Lord Frost told Parliament’s European Scrutiny Committee on Monday that the agreement, which was negotiated to avoid a hard border with Ireland by effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods, “isn’t sustainable in the way it’s working at the moment”.
And he said the only way to make it work was to “hugely reduce or eliminate the barriers between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, goods moving in that direction”.
It comes after a grace period to allow chilled meats to continue to be moved to Northern Ireland was extended until September 30, however there is still no agreement between the UK and EU on how to resolve disputes around the agreement in the long term.
Leader of the DUP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson took part in a virtual meeting with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic on Monday morning.
He described his message to Mr Sefcovic as “simple – the protocol has not worked” and insisted that the UK Government and European Union must renegotiate.
But European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has said the protocol is not the problem behind a series of issues the region has faced in recent months.
Lord Frost told the European Scrutiny Committee: “All options are on the table, we’ve always said that and keep saying it, and we don’t rule anything out.
“At the same time, what we haven’t yet tested is whether a fundamental rebalancing of the way the protocol works is possible. At the moment we’ve been talking about, with the EU, essentially, the problems that the current application has thrown up.”
But he said: “What we haven’t yet talked about is are the arrangements that produce those problems also reasonable or not, and I think that’s the kind of discussion we’ve got to try and get on to.”