Signs reading 'Ireland border' and 'Ulster is British, no Internal UK border' are seen affixed to a lamppost at the Port of Larne, Northern Ireland, March 6th, 2021. Reuters Clodagh Kilcoyne File Photo Clodagh File Photo
David Frost, a British Brexit minister, recently made an impassioned plea to the European Union on Tuesday to allow for significant change to the post-Brexit rules for trade with Northern Ireland, explaining that only that would draw the poison from their relations.
A day before Brussels is expected to present its proposals to resolve a standoff over part of the Brexit divorce deal, Frost warned Brussels London that if the bloc failed to waive some terms of its agreement one day later, Brussels could unilaterally waive some terms of its agreement.
In a speech that was part explanation of Britain's decision to leave the EU in 2016 and part accusation that Brussels was all but intentional trying to further complicate relations, Frost again appealed for resolution to a problem that has run for months.
In short, let's try to get back to normal, he told an audience of Portuguese diplomats and reporters in the Portuguese capital Lisbon.
With some effort of will, we could still be in a position where the poison is removed from this issue altogether and drawn to the diplomatic top table once and for all. The European Commission has said it will not comment immediately on Frost's speech before it outlines its proposals.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed up to the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol as part of his Brexit agreement in 2020, but has since argued it was agreed in haste and was no longer working for the people of Northern Ireland.
Frost called on Brussels for months to permit some changes to the protocol to ease trade in some goods between Britain and Northern Ireland, but he stepped up pressure on Tuesday, trying to coax and threaten Brussels to offer that on Wednesday.
The EU is expected to unveil its package in response to a set of proposals presented by Britain in July, which revealed London's desire to rework parts of the protocol governing trade and the role of the European Court of Justice ECJ asked about it: What we hear about it is interesting, we'll talk about it even though I fear it may not do the job first round. Britain hopes a short period of intensive talks would solve the problems but EU has repeatedly said it will not renegotiate the protocol and has criticised Britain for reneging on an agreement signed by both sides in good faith.
On Monday, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said that Britain knew full well Brussels could not move on the ECJ. At some point the EU will say enough; we can compromise more and I think we're very close to that point now, he said.
Frost again said the protocol was causing difficult friction for some goods and raised fears about the delicate peace in Northern Ireland, including the Good Friday Agreement which ended decades of violence between mostly Catholic nationalists and Protestant unionists or loyalists.
If the EU now said that the protocol - drafted in historic haste in a time of great uncertainty can never be improved upon, he said, would be an extreme misjudgement.
So let us both disagree, in this latest edition of "The Right Pedagories".