Brexit Minister Lord Frost told his peers that developments show that the European Union is not taking “seriously” that it is legitimizing “for another territory” after Brexit. The comments come after the Cabinet Office said Brussels issued an update indicating that more than 600 new measures impacting Northern Ireland had been adopted by the bloc in the past three months, along with 200 more. in preparation for. The Northern Ireland Protocol aims to avoid a hard border with Ireland by effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single goods market.
This decision, to the chagrin of trade unionists, means that the region continues to follow Brussels rules without having a say.
The Joint Advisory Working Group was set up as part of the UK’s divorce deal with the bloc to give Northern Ireland businesses advance notice of regulatory changes related to the protocol.
But peers from the Protocol Lords subcommittee on Ireland and Northern Ireland learned on Wednesday that the EU had given the task force a list of 800 new regulations without prior warning, of which more than 600 have already been approved by Brussels.
Rebecca Ellis, director of the Northern Ireland / Ireland Unit of the Cabinet Office, said efforts to ensure that the working group gave notice of the changes were “still not here”.
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“We had what you might call a ‘drop’ of new measures last Thursday which included a list of over 800 measures, of which I believe 666 had already been adopted,” the official said.
“And in many ways, there was no more information provided than what you could read in the Official Journal.”
Lord Frost confirmed these details when he was later raised by his Conservative counterpart Lord Hannon, announcing that this was a “problem” in the current setup.
“Obviously, the Joint Advisory Working Group is supposed to give us advance warning – if all they do is give us what’s in the Official Journal in some other form, then it doesn’t really matter. of interest, ”he said.
“He has to give a warning up front and I think the way it is working right now is a little revealing of – how should I say it? Not taking the fact that the EU is legislating for a other territory – these are laws that are imposed on another territory without a process.
“I think the least you can do is give some warning up front, some understanding, a chance to give your opinion and consult, and that’s not really happening right now.”
Former MEP and Brexit activist Lord Hannon replied: “It seems to me, at first glance, to indicate a striking lack of goodwill and good faith.”
During the session, Lord Frost – who negotiated Britain’s exit from the EU – declined to say whether the protocol was “fit for purpose”.
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He has argued, as he has done previously with Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, that both sides must strive to achieve a “new balance” in post-Brexit terms.
When asked if the protocol was suitable for his purpose, he replied, “I’m not sure I characterize it that way or pass judgment on it.”
Pressed to know why he would not take a stand, the cabinet minister replied: “Because we need to know – and this is what we have been trying to do in recent months – whether it is possible to implement these arrangements in a way that gives another balance.
“This is the kind of discussion we haven’t had with the EU, but would like to have.”