Brexit POLL: Should Boris Johnson deploy ‘nuclear option’ and spark rift with EU? VOTE

Brexit has 'forced issue' of Irish unification says expert

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The Prime Minister was poised to overhaul the post-Brexit arrangements for the region this week but was eventually talked out of it by his Brexit minister Lord Frost, according to The Telegraph. But the warning to use the “nuclear option” if Brussels refuses to bow to London’s demands was reportedly issued to Ireland this week. UK officials are understood to have made clear it is Boris Johnson and not Lord Frost who is most in favour of triggering Article 16.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis is also understood to have relayed similar messages to Ireland’s Foreign Affairs minister Simon Coveney during recent talks over post-Brexit arrangements in Northern Ireland.

Enforcing Article 16 is seen as a last resort and could spark a massive rift with the EU as it is the mechanism by which either side is able to suspend parts of the Protocol if they believe it is causing huge economic or societal damage to the region.

However, support for its enforcement is growing, with the DUP and even several of Mr Johnson’s own Tory MPs already claiming the conditions for this move have already been met.

Earlier this week, Lord Frost told the House of Lords the UK believed the conditions for triggering Article 16 had now been met and the Protocol in its current form is no longer a viable solution.

But the Brexit minister instead called for the Protocol to be rewritten in the hope of bringing Brussels back to the negotiating table.

One source told The Telegraph that Lord Frost was at the forefront of the UK retaining a more measured approach to proceedings.

A UK Government insider told the newspaper: “He [the Prime Minister] is more fed up and takes a harder line. His instincts are more robust.”

Earlier this week, the EU flat-out rejected the UK’s plans to renegotiate the post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland.

German MEP David McAllister, who is regarded as a key Brexit voice for Brussels in the European Parliament, insisted the Protocol – set up to avoid a hard border – will not be renegotiated.

This comes after Lord Frost stopped short of ripping up the deal with the European Union but warned it needed “significant changes”.

Mr McAllister said: “Instead of putting the Protocol into question, it is about finding solutions for the outstanding issues.

“The implementation of the Protocol relies on joint action. It should not be undermined by unilateral measures.

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“Permanent flexibilities are not acceptable. The Protocol was painstakingly negotiated under high political pressure, ensuring to minimise disruption and to help local communities and businesses.

“It cannot be renegotiated – it is part of the solution of a problem that is Brexit.”

In a statement to the House of Lords on Wednesday, Lord Frost called on the EU to renegotiate the terms of the Protocol.

He said ministers want Brussels to give up its rights to take disputes over the border fix to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and allow goods that don’t meet EU standards to be sold in the area.

The UK’s former chief Brexit negotiator also called on fewer checks to be carried out on goods crossing the Irish Sea as they account for just a fifth of all EU border checks for food and animals.

But he stopped short of saying the UK would trigger Article 16 to override the Protocol.

Lord Frost said: “It is plainly clear that the circumstances exist to justify the use of Article 16.

“Nevertheless, we have concluded that this is not the right moment to do so.”

But he warned: “Put simply, we cannot go on as we are. As we’ve sought to operate the protocol it is clear that these burdens have been the source of considerable and ongoing disruption to lives and livelihoods.

“We’ve seen reductions in supermarket product lines, we’ve seen more than 200 suppliers decide they would no longer sell to Northern Ireland.

“And we’ve seen difficulties, not just on the famous chilled meats, but also on medicines, on pets, or movements of live animals on seeds and plants.

“What is worse, these burdens will get worse, not improve over time as grace periods expire leaving businesses facing evermore unsustainable burdens.”

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