The resignation of London’s double-dealing Brexit Minister ‘Lord’ David Frost has raised hopes of a new direction for Britain and an end to its refusal to honour its critical agreements with the EU on the north of Ireland.
Frost was described as ‘a rat leaving a sinking ship’ as the Tory government faces increasing public criticism over the negative effects of Brexit. He has been replaced in negotiations by Foreign Affairs Minister Liz Truss.
However, Truss has so far only reiterated unionist demands for a reneging on the protections for the north of Ireland contained within the Irish Protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement. She also dismayed EU negotiators when she again threatened to devastatingly escalate the conflict by triggering a collapse of the Protocol.
Frost’s resignation statement complained about Covid restrictions and the ‘current direction of travel’ of Boris Johnson’s administration, but was seen as an attempt to deflect from his damaging failure to implement the Brexit deal he himself had negotiated.
The former DUP leader and Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster described Frost’s resignation as “enormous” for unionists.
Sinn Féin’s Brexit spokesperson, Declan Kearney, called for for the British government to work with the EU through the agreed frameworks to “find solutions” to outstanding issues.
“I would encourage the new Brexit Minister to follow a very different path from the destructive one pursued by David Frost, who consistently acted as a barrier to the implementation of the Protocol and continuously frustrated progress to resolve issues.
“The approach of the British government to Brexit has been defined by internal infighting, zero pragmatism and absolutely no leadership.
“The reality is simple, there is no alternative to the Protocol and this must be acknowledged by the British government - who signed, sealed and delivered the Protocol in 2019.”
Truss’s renewal of the British threat to the north’s post-Brexit trade rules are “enormously disruptive”, the European Commission vice president said.
Maros Sefcovic warned that the entire deal with Britain would collapse if the rules governing trade between Britain and Ireland were abandoned.
In an interview with German news outlet Spiegel, Mr Sefcovic said that a British decision to trigger Article 16 would have “serious consequences” for the North’s economy, while at the same time threatening peace.
He said it would constitute an “enormous setback” for EU relations with London.
Mr Sefcovic said the British government’s repeated threats to pull the trigger on the safeguard measure “are an enormously disruptive element in negotiations”.
“You try to achieve something together, and — boom — there’s the threat of Article 16 again. That goes to the heart of our relationship,” he said.
He described the protocol as the “most complicated part of the Brexit negotiations” and the “foundation of the whole deal”.
“Without the protocol, the system collapses. We must prevent that at all costs,” he said.
The European Commission has unilaterally published proposals to ensure the continued supply of medicines between Britain and the North without disruption, a move which has been widely welcomed. However, it has also drafted an extensive sanctions package that could be used to retaliate against Britain should Article 16 be triggered.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald also said London’s position on the Protocol had been damaging for them internationally.
“The United States has made clear there won’t be a trade agreement (with Britain) if the Protocol is shredded, and if there is damage to the Good Friday Agreement,” she said.
“I think that’s pretty clear. In fairness, the US administration and across the aisle of US politics, there has been a clarity of message that there can’t be damage to the Good Friday Agreement and the protocol has to be delivered.
“I think that would be most unwise on their part. I think the idea that, you know, Britannia waives the rules, this kind of machismo that comes from the Johnson administration is deeply misguided.
“I don’t think it’s well received internationally. I think the British government and system needs to understand, when it comes to Irish interests, we have an agreement.
“We have international law on our side when we argue for the protections that we’re entitled to.
“The sensible, the smart, and the honourable thing is to keep your word. To abide by the agreements that you’ve signed off on, and not to endlessly create uncertainty and anxiety, which has consequences for everyone, not least very, very serious economic consequences.”