Britain’s Brexit minister on Monday threatened to trigger a controversial break clause in Britain’s divorce deal with the European Union, a move that would send the UK’s already freezing ties with its giant neighbor into a deep freeze .
David Frost told a gathering of the UK’s governing Conservative Party that the Brexit agreement, which he negotiated and signed by Britain and the EU, was undermining peace in Northern Ireland and causing “instability and disruption”. Were.
He said that unless there were major changes to the deal, Britain would invoke Article 16, a provision that allows both parties to suspend the deal in exceptional circumstances.
Britain, however, has made this threat before, and Frost did not pull the trigger. “But we can’t wait forever,” he said.
The crisis of tension in UK-EU relations stems from the trade arrangement for Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK that has a land border with the 27-nation bloc. The divorce deal signed between the two parties before leaving the UK means that some goods moving between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK must undergo customs and border checks.
While keeping an open border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland, a key pillar of Northern Ireland’s peace process, the rules aim to allow Britain to enter the EU’s tariff-free single market. But the Czechs have angered Northern Ireland’s federalists, who say they impose burdensome red tape on businesses and undermine Northern Ireland’s ties with the rest of the UK.
Britain accused the EU of being unnecessarily “purist” in implementing the agreement, known as the Northern Ireland Protocol, and says major changes are needed to make it work.
Blaming the bloc’s “colossal action”, Frost said the “protocol itself” was undermining Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace agreement. “Business, political parties, institutions, and indeed Northern Ireland all face instability and disruption,” he said.
“That’s why I urge the EU to be ambitious. There’s no use tinkering around the edges. We need significant change.”
EU officials are likely to greet Frost’s ultimatum and his description of Britain’s EU membership as a “long nightmare with disdain”.
The EU blamed Britain for the disruption, accusing it of attempting to sign a legally binding agreement.
Britain has also angered the European Union by delaying the introduction of checks on some goods from the bloc agreed in the divorce deal, citing a burden on businesses.
Frost said Britain was waiting for the bloc’s response to the change proposals. European Commission spokesman Daniel Ferry said the bloc would propose a solution soon. “What we are focusing on is finding practical solutions to the issues that are arising, neither more nor less,” he said.
Britain’s Conservatives are holding their first in-person conference since leaving Britain last year. Despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s pledge to “get Brexit”, the breakdown is affecting the economy as Britain tries to bounce back from the pandemic disruption and damage.
A severe shortage of truck drivers, coupled with a post-Brexit exodus of European workers, has crippled British supply chains, leaving supermarket shelves, fast-food chains without chicken and gas pumps dry. Scores of soldiers have been prepared to haul fuel tankers after more than a week of gas shortages.