After meeting with European Commission Vice President Marcos Sefcovic in Brussels, the Brexit minister said there two sides had once again failed to reach an agreement. While he said some progress had been made and there was “potential to generate some momentum” in talks, he warned unless the EU compromised in discussions, triggering Article 16, the legal mechanism to suspend the treaty, may still be necessary in order to protect the integrity of the UK.
He said: “Following the meeting last week, intensive and constructive talks have proceeded between the UK and EU teams.
“There is the potential to generate some momentum in our discussions.
“In this context, I welcome the Vice President’s acknowledgement in his speech this morning that the Protocol had led to unintended consequences in Northern Ireland.
“Addressing these continues to be the urgent task before us.”
For months the UK has warned the Protocol is having a damaging impact on the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process in Northern Ireland.
Ministers and officials have been left frustrated by the repeated refusal of the EU to admit to frictions caused by the Protocol’s implementation.
But this morning, giving a speech at the Brexit Institute at Dublin City University, Ms Sefcovic said he wanted to find a “comprehensive long-term solution” and create a “win-win situation” that would help the people of Northern Ireland.
Setting out his plans, he said he wanted to create an “express line” for goods set to remain in the province with little likelihood of entering the EU via the Republic of Ireland.
He said: “These measures would create a type of express line, which would substantially facilitate trade between all parties, a win-win situation for all.
“It is a unique and completely new model for how goods can be moved from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, one that will strengthen opportunities for people and businesses alike.”
He added: “It will make the application of the protocol more transparent while at the same time respecting the UK’s constitutional order.”
The two teams agreed today to continue their discussions next week.
Mr Sefcovic and his team will travel to London on November 26.
Today’s discussions focused on medicines, customs, and rules on animal and plant products – known as Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) checks.
Lord Frost said: “Our discussions this week have focused on medicines, customs, and SPS, though other subjects have also been considered. Significant gaps remain across most issues.
“On medicines, there has been progress but agreement has not been reached.
“Any acceptable solution needs to ensure that medicines are available at the same time and on the same basis across the whole of the UK.
“We have not yet made substantive progress on the fundamental customs and SPS issues relating to goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
“A durable solution here requires goods to be able to move essentially freely into Northern Ireland when both sides agree that they are remaining in Northern Ireland.”
The Brexit minister had originally suggested talks on the Protocol should last no more than three weeks and he would then make a decision on whether to trigger Article 16.
The decision to extend talks has given hope a breakthrough is possible.
However, he said that while a “solution based on consensus” remained the UK’s preferred outcome, unilaterally suspending the treaty could not be ruled out if Brussels failed to meet the UK’s red lines.
Lord Frost said: “Any such solution must constitute a significant change from the current situation, materially ease practical problems on the ground, and safeguard political, economic and societal stability in Northern Ireland.
“If no such solution can be found, we remain prepared to use the safeguard provisions under Article 16, which are a legitimate recourse under the Protocol in order for the Government to meet its responsibilities to the people of Northern Ireland.”