Sausages and sandwiches ‘are no risk to EU single market’

Sausages and sandwiches are not a risk to the EU, government sources have said, with Lord Frost set to tell Brussels on Tuesday that the "deep imbalance" in the Northern Ireland Protocol must be addressed.

The Cabinet Office minister and former chief Brexit negotiator will deliver a speech to diplomats in Lisbon and is set to say that, without new arrangements, the agreement "will never have the support it needs to survive".

Lord Frost will say that the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in overseeing the Protocol "and the consequent inability of the UK Government to implement the very sensitive arrangements in the Protocol in a reasonable way has created a deep imbalance in the way the Protocol operates".

Sources close to Lord Frost said on Sunday that the imbalance refers to a favouring of north-south trade on the island of Ireland at the expense of east-west trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the EU being unreasonable in its judgment of the risk posed by goods sent from Britain.

They referred to British businesses that have stopped selling in Northern Ireland because it had become "too onerous" due to the fact that Northern Ireland was trading more with the Republic than with Great Britain.

A source said: "A sandwich or sausages for example – that’s being seen as a threat and it’s not, and it is this imbalance. The risk level is way too high and it needs to be a lot more proportionate in terms of what is genuinely a risk to the EU single market and what isn’t."

The Northern Ireland Protocol keeps Northern Ireland in the EU’s customs territory, with checks required on British goods travelling to the Province to prevent a hard Irish border.

It comes after a senior minister claimed that the EU’s rigid approach on Northern Ireland was being heavily influenced by an "anti-Brexit" and "anti-British" French regime.

The minister claimed Emmanuel Macron’s hostility towards Brexit and Britain, rather than a genuine concern about the goods trade on the island of Ireland threatening the EU’s single market, was behind France’s hard line on Northern Ireland.

Tory sources told The Telegraph that the EU is likely to offer sufficient concessions for the Government to agree to enter several weeks of talks from this week.

But the UK could trigger Article 16 at the end of those discussions next month if Brussels fails to meet Lord Frost’s "red lines", including the replacement of the ECJ’s role in the Protocol with a form of international arbitration.

On Sunday night, Lord Frost took to Twitter to respond to a post by Simon Coveney, the Irish minister for foreign affairs, who accused the UK Government of creating a new red line "as a barrier to progress that they know the EU can’t move on".

Mr Coveney asked whether the UK wanted "an agreed way forward or a further breakdown in relations".

Lord Frost responded that the issue of governance and the European Court of Justice was "not new", but said the "problem is that too few people seem to have listened". 

He added that the Government awaited proposals from Brussels and would "look at them seriously and positively whatever they say". He said they will be discussed "seriously and intensively" but warned that "there needs to be significant change to the current situation if there is to be a positive outcome".

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