The Northern Ireland Protocol is damaging the peace was designed to protect. And so must be revised.
Lord Frost for ConservativeHome
Published: November 1, 2021
Lord Frost is Minister of State at the Cabinet Office and former chief negotiator for Brexit.
Policy Exchange has performed a huge public service in publishing today Roderick Crawford’s meticulous analysis of the so-called “Joint Report” of December 2017.
He has written a piercing analysis which, for as long as the issues raised by the Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland are not yet settled, will be of more than purely historical interest.
I may differ from Roderick on a few points of detail, but not on the overall assessment: that the Joint Report, so-called because it was an agreed document between the UK and the EU, is arguably the text that has done most to shape the terms of this country’s exit from the European Union.
As Special Adviser to Boris Johnson when Foreign Secretary, I was a close observer, rather than a participant, during the period covered by this document. I nevertheless have acute memories of it.
As the Report circulated within government that December, it was immediately clear to us that a crucial pass had been sold in agreeing — unless an alternative was agreed with the EU, which it clearly would not be — to “maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement” (paragraph 49 of the Joint Report).
Although efforts were made internally to persuade us that “alignment” really meant “equivalence” or “approximation”, we could see that that was not so, and that the effect of this commitment would be to keep the UK in the customs union and much of the single market and thus to destroy the prospect of a meaningful Brexit. This indeed turned out to be the outcome in the initial version of the Protocol from November 2018, via the famous “backstop”, an agreement which Parliament consistently refused to approve.
As I fielded furious calls from Brexiteers that December week, I had two thoughts in my mind. First, “if I resign over this, how will I ever explain what it is all about?” That was a valid question at that point. When all the politics were about how we got over the “sufficient progress” threshold to further talks, this point on Northern Ireland would seem to many like a technicality.
For the full article by Lord Frost, please click here:
For the 100 page report by Roderick Crawford entitled "The-Northern-Ireland-Protocol - The Origins of the Current Crisis", please click here: