Lord Frost discusses the deadline for invoking Article 16
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On October 13, Maroš Šefčovič, Vice President of the European Commission, offered to cut 80 percent of Irish sea border checks on goods arriving into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. The Brexit deal, signed by the UK at the end of 2019, established that Northern Ireland would remain in the EU’s single market, so that trade and relations between Northern Ireland and Ireland would not be damaged.
But in order to do so, checks on trade would have to be carried out when goods entered Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, because the UK is no longer an EU member state and therefore cannot enjoy the privilege of free-flow of goods into the single market.
Since the deal was signed by Boris Johnson, Lord Frost has been pushing the EU to renegotiate the terms of the Northern Ireland protocol because strenuous trade checks have caused prices to soar and shelves to empty in Northern Ireland.
Lord Frost has threatened to trigger Article 16, which would suspend the entire Brexit deal, if the EU refuse to reduce checks and remove the European Court of Justice (ECJ) from Northern Ireland.
Although Mr Šefčovič offered to reduce checks substantially, he refused to remove ECJ powers from Northern Ireland.
He said: “You cannot have access to the single market without the jurisdiction of the ECJ.”
One of the major roles of the ECJ is to interpret and enforce the rules of the EU’s single market so, for Northern Ireland to still trade in the single market, it has to accept the institution that governs the single market.
Since Mr Šefčovič’s announcement, Express.co.uk asked 9,093 readers whether they think the Prime Minister should accept the EU’s proposal to cut checks by 80 percent – and a huge 85 percent of voters said no.
Readers largely cited the EU’s refusal to budge on ECJ powers as a justified reason to scrap the Brexit deal completely and trigger Article 16.
One voter said: “No foreign power should have any say over the UK on UK trade.”
Another agreed: “The ECJ must not be allowed to undermine Northern Ireland and the sovereignty of the UK.”
Many readers felt that Mr Šefčovič’s proposal to scrap 80 percent of checks was not good enough, and that there should be no checks at all, but new trade checks were a clear part of Brexit from the get-go.
Britain was not going to have free flow of trade through the EU’s single market if it voted to leave the EU.
One voted commented: “No don’t cut 80 percent of checks, it must be 100 percent.
“Northern Ireland is part of UK and should not be subject to any outside controls.”
But in order to scrap the Irish sea border checks, there would have to be a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland which could reignite historic tensions between the two regions.
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Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Micheal Martin and Northern Irish deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill are happy with the deal proposed by Mr Šefčovič and say it is well put together.
Mr Martin commented: “The commission have demonstrated imagination, innovation, and also a listening ear to the people who matter, the people who are in Northern Ireland, who are on the ground dealing with these issues.”
Ms O’Neill smiled as she said: “I think this represents progress and I think very much fulfils the commitments that have been made in the protocol to protect the All-Island economy, to ensure no hard border on this island and to make sure we protect the Good Friday Agreement.”
Lord Frost could be pushing for a Brexit deal similar to the EU-Swiss free trade agreement.
Although Switzerland has never been a member state of the EU, it enjoys free trade in the single market and does not have any legal obligation to adopt new EU legislation.
This deal has been established for Switzerland through 100 bilateral agreements that have been negotiated since 1972.
But in 2014, the EU have moved to enforce an institutional framework agreement that would make Swiss rules automatically adapt to fall into line with EU laws, according to Euractiv.
Under the offer Mr Šefčovič has proposed, the UK finds itself in a catch-22.
Boris Johnson can choose to kick out the ECJ by removing Northern Ireland from the single market and enforcing a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Or he has to swallow the bitter pill of keeping the ECJ’s powers within Northern Ireland in order to protect the country’s economic stability and societal peace.
Neither option is appetising for Brexiteers, and Lord Frost is set to continue fighting for a better deal.
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