Clear change Lord Frosts softer tone over hated Brexit deal causing alarm

EU hits out at Lord Frost's Northern Ireland demands

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In recent months, warnings that Article 16 of the Protocol would be triggered appeared to be issued almost on a daily basis. But critics argue that efforts to force the EU into compromise have been dampened, and are fearful of the consequences.

An editorial in the Northern Irish daily News Letter highlights “a clear change of tone from London”.

Lord Frost told Parliament last month: “There is more to do and I certainly will not give up on this process [by triggering Article 16] unless and until it is abundantly clear that nothing more can be done.”

He added: “We are certainly not at that point yet.”

News Letter posits that the Brexit Minister has not just stopped issuing threats to end the negotiation process but has even shown a preparedness to concede ground.

A major point of contention over the Northern Ireland Protocol is the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) as its overseer.

Lord Frost has previously stated that it is “highly unusual” for a country outside of the EU to be judged in the same manner as an EU nation state.

But in his comments on the Protocol early this month, he is not believed to have touched on this sticking point.

The Irish Times has also reported that the Government’s opposition to the ECJ’s involvement has been dropped.

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But separate sources dispute this claim, with a spokesman telling News Letter: “This is an inaccurate characterisation of our position.

“Any durable solution must address the full range of difficulties created by the Protocol, including on the European Court of Justice.”

Despite this, the editorial insists “there is reason to be alarmed by the soft tone”.

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The latest dispute to arise from the wider question over the Protocol is that of medicine supplies.

Because of the agreement, Northern Ireland remains covered by the EU’s pharmaceutical regulations.

This means goods arriving in Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK are subjected to EU checks.

Following a meeting with European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič last week, Lord Frost said the two sides were moving forward.

He expressed his hope of “making worthwhile progress” before Christmas.

But critics fear the UK will find itself on a lower footing if it does not hold firm to its commitments.

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