EU politicians have taken aim at U.K. Brexit Minister David Frost over an opinion article in which he admitted his government “underestimated” the effects of the Northern Ireland protocol and argued the bloc needs a “new playbook for dealing with neighbours” which “involves pragmatic solutions between friends.”
Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney and France’s Secretary of State for European Affairs Clément Beaune both took to Twitter to reject Frost’s characterization of the issues in his Financial Times op-ed, published Sunday.
“Lord Frost continues to lay blame for difficulty with Protocol at EU inflexibility. This is simply not the case,” Coveney said. In his tweet, Beaune noted “the Northern Ireland protocol cannot be called into question. It’s not the problem, it’s the solution to a problem that we have not created.”
The European side also hit out at Frost’s admission that his government had not foreseen some of the consequences of the Northern Ireland protocol. “We underestimated the effect of the protocol on goods movements to Northern Ireland, with some suppliers in Great Britain simply not sending their products because of the time-consuming paperwork required,” Frost wrote. “We’ve seen manufacturers of medicines cutting supply.”
Journalists pointed out that internal government documents spelled out the dire customs scenarios, while Ireland’s Minister of State for European Affairs Thomas Byrne said: “The British Government’s own 2019 explainer on the NI protocol explains the protocol pretty accurately.”
Frost’s opinion piece for the Financial Times was published ahead of a meeting this week with his EU counterpart Maroš Šefčovič in London for the first U.K.-EU Partnership Council, as the clock ticks down on grace periods for imposing checks on animal and plant products, something that risks grave disruption, Frost argued.