Reasonable tone ‘not 
sign of softer stance’

Brexit minister Lord Frost has warned Brussels should not interpret his “reasonable tone” in talks to imply any softening of the UK’s position in a row over post-Brexit arrangements in Northern Ireland.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 19th November 2021, 7:42 am
Lord David Frost, Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, speaks during the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.
Lord David Frost, Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, speaks during the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.

Challenged in Parliament over the percentage chance of success in the negotiations with the EU by Christmas, the Cabinet minister said “somewhere between zero and a hundred”, as he declined to be drawn on giving a figure.

The Tory frontbencher also insisted he would not recommend any agreement that he did not believe safeguarded stability in the Province.

Triggering Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol – which would effectively suspend parts of the arrangements – is still “very much on the table” and its safeguards were legitimate, he said.

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The EU has warned the move would have “serious consequences” for the Province and Brussels’ relationship with the UK.

Lord Frost made his comments in his regular question time in the House of Lords as discussions continued with the bloc to resolve the dispute.

Tackled at Westminster, over whether he was softening his negotiating stance with the bloc, Lord Frost said: “No. We are trying to reach agreement. That has always been our position. I would suggest our friends in the EU don’t interpret the reasonable tone that I usually use in my discussions with them as implying any softening in the substantive position.”

Earlier, Lord Frost told peers: “Whatever messages to the contrary the EU think they have heard or read, our position has not changed.

“We would prefer to reach a negotiated agreement if we can. That is the best way forward for the stability and the prosperity of Northern Ireland.

“But I want to be clear, I would not recommend any outcome from the negotiations that I did not believe safeguarded political, economic or social stability in Northern Ireland.”