London and Dublin clash over Northern Ireland Protocol

UK and Ireland clash over Northern Ireland Protocol ahead of major speech by Lord Frost tomorrow in which he will demand the EU agree to major changes to post-Brexit deal

  • Brexit Minister Lord Frost is to give a speech tomorrow on Brexit agreement
  • Will call for European Court of Justice’s administrative role to be axed 
  • Comes a day ahead of the EUY setting out its plans for solving  goods deadlock 

The UK and Ireland clashed over Northern Ireland today ahead of a major crunch point in post-Brexit relations with the EU.

Brexit Minister Lord Frost is to give a speech tomorrow in which he will make removing the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in administering the Northern Ireland Protocol a red-line issue. 

His address in Lisbon will pre-empt an announcement by Brussels on its preferred way to end the row over the agreement – in force only since the beginning of 2021 –  which governs goods entry to Northern Ireland.

However, his pre-emptive led Ireland’s foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney to accuse the UK Government of ‘shifting the playing field’ away from solving issues around the controversial protocol.

It prompted Downing Street to warn changes are essential if it is to survive. 

‘These arrangements aren’t sustainable, we need to find a new way of resolving issues that arise between us using mechanisms normal in other international treaties,’ the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

‘It is unheard of for bilateral agreements being policed by the courts of one of the parties.’

Brexit Minister Lord Frost is to give a speech tomorrow in which he will make removing the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in administering the Northern Ireland Protocol a red-line issue.

Unionists have been pressuring for it to be scrapped because of the trade barriers it has created on products crossing the Irish Sea from Great Britain.

The DUP’s boycott of north-south meetings in protest at the Northern Ireland Protocol is unlawful, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice Scoffield delivered the declaration at Belfast High Court after a Belfast man, Sean Napier, brought judicial review proceedings into the lawfulness of the DUP move.

The case centred around DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s announcement last month that his party would disengage with the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) meetings as part of their campaign of opposition to the protocol.

Mr Justice Scoffield said: ‘The respondents decision to withdraw from the North South Ministerial Council was and is unlawful.

‘It frustrates, is contrary to and is in breach of legal duties contained in the Northern Ireland Act.’

He said that the declaration had been agreed by legal counsel for both the applicant and the respondents.

The judge continued: ‘Ministers of the Northern Ireland Executive are required to affirm the pledge of office, set out as part of the Northern Ireland Executive Ministerial Code.

‘That includes a commitment to participate in the North South Ministerial Council and the British Irish Council.

‘It is difficult for the court to reach any other conclusion than that the respondents have consciously determined to act in contravention of the pledge of office and the ministerial code.’

He added: ‘It is perhaps worth emphasising the each minister of the Northern Ireland Executive bears personal responsibility to comply with the pledge of office and the ministerial code.

‘The court expects the respondents to comply with their legal obligations.’

Mr Justice Scoffield said he would not take any further action at the moment, but said if there was no change to the situation the applicant could return to court.

‘The court obviously possesses further powers, but in my view, it would be a sorry spectacle for those powers to have to be invoked.’

Mr Napier’s lawyers had argued the decision to boycott the meetings is frustrating the function of government and could jeopardise peace funding.

They also argued that the policy breaches constitutional arrangements under the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and violates the Stormont ministerial code and the pledge of office.

Two NMSC meetings have already been cancelled, with further meetings scheduled for later this week.

Five DUP ministers were named as respondents in the case, First Minister Paul Givan, junior minister at the Executive Office Gary Middleton, Education Minister Michelle McIlveen, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots and Economy Minister Gordon Lyons.

 

Lord Frost’s speech will come a day before the EU is expected to produce plans to resolve issues with the protocol, which has led to economic barriers between Northern Ireland and Britain.

Brussels is likely to propose that chilled meats can continue crossing the Irish Sea from Britain after the end of the current grace periods, in a move to alleviate the so-called sausage wars.

But Lord Frost is expected to double down and say: ‘The commission have been too quick to dismiss governance as a side issue. The reality is the opposite.

‘The role of the European Court of Justice in Northern Ireland and the consequent inability of the UK Government to implement the very sensitive arrangements in the protocol in a reasonable way has created a deep imbalance in the way the protocol operates.’

A Government source threatened that the UK would trigger Article 16 of the protocol – effectively overriding parts of the deal – if the EU proposals amount to ‘tinkering around the edges’.

The protocol was negotiated to avoid a hard border with Ireland, by effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods.

But unionists have been pressuring for it to be scrapped because of the trade barriers it has created on products crossing the Irish Sea from Great Britain.

Mr Coveney today said: ‘Each time that the European Union comes forward with new ideas and new proposals to try and solve problems, they are dismissed before they are released, and that’s happening again this week.

He said European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic and his negotiating team have spent months preparing a package to resolve ongoing issues, which they will publish on Wednesday.

In a post on Twitter at the weekend, Mr Coveney argued that the British Government has created a new ‘red line’ over the ECJ.

He admitted that his tweet in response to the comments was ‘not very diplomatic’ but said it is ‘not very diplomatic’ of the UK Government to brief the British media.

‘David Frost accuses me of raising issues on social media. It’s a bit rich, quite frankly, because he is briefing British media effectively to say ”Well, the EU can make the changes that they need to make, but actually it’s not enough, we want more”, and now it’s the ECJ is the main issue,’ Mr Coveney told RTE Morning Ireland.

‘Yes, it’s true that they raised ECJ issues in a command paper in mid-summer, but the truth is, if the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, in terms of the functioning of the EU single market, was an absolute red line for the UK, why did they sign up to an agreement that allowed the ECJ to effectively be the final arbiter for the implementation of the protocol in Northern Ireland?

‘This is being seen across the European Union as the same pattern over and over again – the EU tries to solve problems, the UK dismisses the solutions before they’re even published and asks for more.’ 

Mr Coveney also said that Northern Ireland and the Republic will suffer the most from ongoing tensions.

‘I’ve spoken to many Unionists and I’ve spoken to many business people in Northern Ireland, and none of them are raising the issue of the ECJ jurisdiction in terms of the interpretation of the EU single market on the implementation of the protocol,’ the Fine Gael minister added.

‘They are raising practical issues around freedom to trade without checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

‘The European Commission is trying to solve those issues as much as they can within the confines of the protocol.

‘The British Government seems to be shifting the playing field now away from solving those issues, which they presume they have compromised on, and now opening up this red-line issue of the jurisdiction of the ECJ.’

Source: Read Full Article