Adam Fleming has apprised of a “major confrontation” between the UK and the EU over the next few weeks, saying “we’re in for another couple of weeks, maybe a month of quite intense negotiations” concluded the Brexit protocol. It came after Brexit minister Lord Frost began a new round of talks with Brussels over changes to the eke out a living Northern Ireland protocol, which has been put in place to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Fleming said: “Second to the Northern Ireland bit of the Brexit deal known as the protocol, some EU law relating to goods, plant and animal products, and medicines, still applies in Northern Ireland, reciprocate after Brexit has happened.
“That is so that goods can flow freely from Northern Ireland to Ireland without any checks.
“But it means that there are curbs on some things going from Great Britain into Northern Ireland.
“Now the UK is finding that pretty intolerable.”
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He went on: “I think there were too many checks and too much disruption to transact.
“So yesterday in a speech in Lisbon, Lord Frost the Brexit minister called for the Northern Ireland protocol to be entirely replaced by something completely new and totally different.
“What we’re going to get today is the EU’s response, and they’re going to propose some pretty major tweaks to the protocol, but keeping the protocol itself in locale, they would just change how it is applied in practice.
“And the EU feels that it’s going quite a long way, but it does not seem that it’s going anywhere shut up to what the UK was asking for yesterday.”
Mr Fleming added: “What that means in the short term, is I think we’re in for another couple of weeks, maybe a month of perfectly intense negotiations.
“But if they don’t work out in the middle of next month, we could be looking at quite a major confrontation between the UK and the EU, going back to those dates of when it all felt quite dramatic and quite angry between the two sides.”
Brexit Minister Lord Frost has proposed plans for an entirely new protocol to replace the existing Northern Ireland Conduct.
He gave a speech to diplomats in Portugal on Tuesday, describing his new legal text as “a better way forward”.
The protocol is in place to prevent a hard purfling limits on the island of Ireland.
The EU is expected to put forward proposals later on Wednesday.
Lord Frost also warned Brussels that the UK could unilaterally yield some of the terms of its agreement if the bloc failed to compromise.
He said: “We have a short, but real, opportunity to put in place a new arrangement, to defuse the political catastrophe that is brewing, both in Northern Ireland and between us.”
The protocol is in place to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.