The Brexit minister suggested he is not ashamed of renegotiating the Brexit deal not long after signing the agreement with the EU.
Lord David Frost argued that the reason why the current demands of the UK government are not embarrassing is that there is “very clearly” no more “cross-community” and “cross-party” support in Northern Ireland for the Protocol.
Addressing Frost, Lord George Foulkes said: “You negotiated this Treaty and you commended it to us, at the time.
“Do you not find it a little embarrassing that you’re renegotiating it across such a wide area so soon after it was signed by the government and approved by this Parliament?”
Frost replied: “Not really, because circumstances have changed.”
Pushed to give details as to what changed “so quickly”, Frost added “there is very clearly no longer cross-community, cross-party consent in Northern Ireland for the Protocol”, which he labelled “unfortunate”.
“That is very clear because all the unionist parties have put out a statement saying that they would like the Protocol to be rejected and replaced. And that’s very clear.”
Frost was also questioned on whether he thinks UK’s U-turn on the agreement it signed will create “huge problems” when negotiating treaties with other countries in the future – because of the lack of trust Britain may encounter after the way it handled EU negotiations.
But he said he hopes the UK ‘will never negotiate a Treaty in the same circumstances as it did in October 2019’.
Irish political scientist and professor Brigid Laffan hit out at Frost’s statements.
“Unionists voted against the Withdrawal Agreement so you knew this,” she said.
She added: “Plus cross-community consent is not required for an international treaty signed and ratified by the UK government”.
Government ‘rather lacking in realism’
Meanwhile, a European Law Professor said UK society, economy and trade are suffering from “serious problems” caused by Boris Johnson’s pursuit of a ‘hard Brexit’.
Michael Dougan, from the University of Liverpool, expressed a dim view of the Tory government’s insistence to rewrite the Northern Ireland Protocol and scrap the European Court of Justice and the Human Rights Act.
He told TLE that the government’s insistence to rewrite the Northern Ireland Protocol is “rather lacking in realism”.
He explained the government’s position: “We’re not prepared to make compromises, and we just want everything. We want to have our hard Brexit, we want to not have a border across the island of Ireland, and we don’t want to have a border down the Irish Sea. And we want you, the EU, just to give that to us.”
The professor said it is “objectively impossible” to have everything it wants: “The question has been, which one of those things are you willing to sacrifice? Is it your hard Brexit? Is it peace in Ireland? Or is it unionist identity in Northern Ireland? Which of those three things do you care least about?
“The choice made by Johnson was, we care least about the unionists in Northern Ireland, despite all of our rhetoric and our brotherly love with the DUP. That doesn’t matter, we’re going to dump Northern Ireland, and we’re going to have our hard Brexit, a new border across the island of Ireland, and the solution will be the border down the Irish Sea.”
Related: Law professor warns UK of ‘serious suffering’ from Johnson’s hard Brexit