The EU must agree to “significant change” of the European Court of Justice’s role in Northern Ireland, Lord Frost has said, ahead of the talks over a revised Brexit agreement.
In a bid to break the deadlock over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the Brexit minister has travelled to Brussels for discussions with Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission vice-president, to kickstart a period of intensive negotiations in the coming weeks.
The EU has tabled proposals to dramatically cut the number of customs checks on trade between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland under the protocol, which ties the province to EU rules to avoid a hard border, but they ignored British demands to scrap the powers of European judges in policing the measures.
In a warning shot to his European counterpart ahead of the talks, Lord Frost said the compromise is ultimately unacceptable and the UK will require a concession on the role of the ECJ before a deal can be struck.
“They will need to if we are to find a solution, there needs to be significant change if we are to get an agreed solution,” he said.
‘Long way to go’
However, ministers have given the EU proposals, which were published on Wednesday, a cautious but positive welcome ahead of the talks.
“The detail is important, but we are studying them constructively,” Lord Frost told the Politico news website.
“Clearly they have proposed some changes, we do need to understand that detail and we’ve begun that conversation, but there’s quite a long way to go.”
Sources in London said ministers were surprised by how far the EU had gone to end disruption caused by the Northern Ireland Protocol, which Lord Frost believes has had a chilling effect on trade in the province.
A government spokesman said it was clear that Mr Sefcovic had made a “considerable effort” to address the issues.
He added: “Nevertheless it is clear there is still a substantial gap between our two positions. Accordingly there is much work to do.
“Both we and the EU now have proposals on the table. We need to discuss them intensively in the days to come to see if the gaps can be bridged and a solution found which delivers the significant change needed.”