Life support

Good Friday ‘Life Support Northern Ireland Protocol’ Agreement

Lord David Frost issued the dramatic warning when speaking to the Policy Exchange think tank ahead of the Stormont election next week

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Renegotiation of Article 16 ‘still the best way forward’, says Frost

The 24-year-old peace deal with Northern Ireland is ‘on life support’ due to wrangling over Brexit border arrangements, Boris Johnson’s former chief EU negotiator warned today.

Lord David Frost has issued the alert eight days before a close election in the province will make Sinn Fein nationalists the biggest party.

Such an outcome would trigger further political turbulence.

Lord Frost has called on the UK to renegotiate the Northern Ireland Protocol, which aims to prevent a hard border with the Republic along the 310-mile border – the UK’s only land border with the EU.

Lord Frost feared for peace deal as row over protocol drags on



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Unionists claim a border has effectively been created in the Irish Sea, hampering trade between Britain and Northern Ireland due to controls on certain goods.

Experts fear this could jeopardize the fragile Belfast/Good Friday agreement of 1998, which ended The Troubles.

There is widespread opposition to the Protocol


Getty Images)

Lord Frost has called on the Prime Minister to trigger Article 16 – suspending the arrangement – unless a solution can be found.

Speaking to the centre-right Policy Exchange think tank, the Tory peer said: ‘We are where we are, we have to face the fact that we are in a very serious situation.

“It’s pretty clear, and I think serious commentators agree, that the Belfast/Good Friday deal is about sustaining life.

He helped negotiate the system



“It’s hard to see next week’s election results do much to help.

“It matters because, to state the obvious, the purpose of the Protocol is to protect the Belfast Agreement – that was the understood objective of negotiators on both sides.”

Problems have been mounting with the protocol since the UK officially left the bloc in January 2020.

The scheme effectively keeps the province in the EU’s single market, but creates a trade barrier in the Irish Sea for goods from Britain – something Mr Johnson had previously promised he would not accept never.

Many trade unionists oppose the mechanism


Getty Images)

London and Brussels have both presented plans to make the protocol work better.

The government wants substantial changes, arguing that the current system harms community relations.

Lord Frost said: “The failure to reach a lasting agreement on the protocol means that a huge – if not unbearable – weight has been placed on the fragile politics of Northern Ireland as a result.

“These policies may now be reaching a breaking point and they are making the current arrangements unworkable.”

The former Brexit minister, who is still close to the PM, has signaled that Mr Johnson may be ready to trigger Article 16.

“If the EU is not willing to work with us to improve the protocol, then Her Majesty’s Government have no choice but to act unilaterally,” he said.

“Personally, I’ve never had a problem doing it at the right time – nor, I believe, the Prime Minister.

Lord Frost thinks PM would trigger Article 16


Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street)

“One option would be to act in a fairly limited way to remove current pressure points, first using Article 16.”

Mr Johnson has publicly left open the possibility of invoking the clause.

Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions today, he said: “There is clearly an economic cost to the Protocol and it is also now turning to a political problem and an imbalance of sentiment.

“We must rectify this balance in the interests of the Good Friday Agreement on which this country depends.”

Mr Johnson has not ruled out new legislation that would give UK ministers the power to override the protocol, after reports of a bill could come out next month.

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