The UK “cannot wait forever” for Brussels to respond to demands to change Northern Ireland’s Brexit deal, Lord Frost said as he issued a fresh warning he might suspend parts of the arrangements.
In his speech to the Conservative Party conference, the UK's Brexit minister said there would be “some rough waters” as a result of leaving the EU “but we will choose for ourselves how to steer our ship”.
The main issue of contention with the European Union is the Northern Ireland Protocol, the package of measures aimed at avoiding a hard border between the North and the Republic.
The arrangements effectively keep Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods, but as a result have put a trade barrier for products crossing the Irish Sea from Great Britain.
The peer, who negotiated the deal including the protocol which was signed by Boris Johnson, said he worried that Brussels would not grant the concessions he was seeking to maintain cross-Irish Sea trade.
Lord Frost said he would soon share legal texts with Brussels setting out how the UK intends to resolve the issue — and could unilaterally suspend some of the current arrangements under Article 16 of the treaty if the EU does not respond.
“I set out in July a set of proposals that would establish a new balance for a lasting future — and I will soon be sending a new set of legal texts to the EU to support them,” he told Tories gathered in Manchester.
“We await a formal response from the EU to our proposals. But, from what I hear, I worry that we will not get one which enables the significant change we need.
“So I urge the EU to be ambitious. It’s no use tinkering around the edges. We need significant change.
“If we can agree something better, we can get back to where we wanted to be – an independent Britain with friendly relations with the EU based on free trade.
“But we cannot wait forever. Without an agreed solution soon, we will need to act, using the Article 16 safeguard mechanism, to address the impact the protocol is having on Northern Ireland.
“That may in the end be the only way to protect our country – our people, our trade, our territorial integrity, the peace process, and the benefits of this great UK of which we are all part.”