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UK ‘underestimated’ impact of NI protocol in call for fix

Time is “starting to run out” to fix the problems facing Northern Ireland after Brexit, the UK’s Brexit minister has warned Brussels.

Lord Frost said the UK Government had “underestimated” the impact the Northern Ireland Protocol, which he helped to negotiate as part of the initial Brexit deal, would have on the region.

He has called on the European Union to forgo “legal purism” and instead embrace “pragmatic solutions” to help resolve the difficulties related to the protocol.The protocol has angered unionists by effectively creating a barrier between Great Britain and Northern Ireland by leaving the region tied to a range of EU customs and regulatory rules.

Talks are continuing between the EU and the UK Government to solve some of the issues but many unionists have called for it to be scrapped over fears Northern Ireland is being separated from the rest of Great Britain.

In an article for the Financial Times before his meeting this week with European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic in London, Lord Frost set out his call for a shift in attitude from the bloc.

Lord Frost, who was Boris Johnson’s chief negotiator during the divorce talks, said the UK had put “huge resources” into making the protocol work but that operating under the EU’s legal terms meant “we have very limited discretion to operate the rules in a way which makes sense on the ground in Northern Ireland”.

He said the end result had been “political turbulence” and “real world impacts on lives and livelihoods”.

“We underestimated the effect of the protocol on goods movements to Northern Ireland, with some suppliers in Great Britain simply not sending their products because of the time-consuming paperwork required,” the minister said.

Loyalists take part in an anti-Northern Ireland Protocol rally in Portadown, Co Armagh on Saturday
Loyalists take part in an anti-Northern Ireland Protocol rally in Portadown, Co Armagh on Saturday (Brian Lawless/PA)

“We’ve seen manufacturers of medicines cutting supply.

“And there is less choice on supermarket shelves for consumers.

“The NI Retail Consortium has warned that when the grace period ends in October, supermarkets will face ‘real, severe problems’.”

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