Senior ministers from Boris Johnson’s Government met with representatives of loyalist paramilitaries during a visit to Northern Ireland.
Brexit Minister Lord Frost and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis met a delegation from the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) on Monday to discuss Brexit concerns, it has emerged.
Downing Street said it was important to “engage widely” with communities in Northern Ireland.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The UK Government regularly meets with groups and individuals from across all parts of the community and it is important we hear a diverse range of views.
“We are going to continue to engage widely to ensure that the UK Government is able to meet its objectives in Northern Ireland.”
The meeting comes amid continued disputes over Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit arrangements.
Lord Frost urged the European Union to take a “common sense, risk-based approach” to the Northern Ireland Protocol, warning that the current way it is currently operating was not sustainable.
David Frost, who negotiated the protocol, says UK will ‘consider all options’ as it ‘not sustainable for long.’
He said: “Businesses have gone to extraordinary efforts to make the current requirements work, but it is hard to see that the way the protocol is currently operating can be sustainable for long.
“We’re committed to working through the issues with the EU urgently and in good faith. I hope they will take a common sense, risk-based approach that enables us to agree a pragmatic way forward that substantially eases the burdens on Northern Ireland.”
David Frost, who received a peerage after negotiating the Northern Ireland protocol, thinks that the Northern Ireland protocol is unsustainable.— James O’Brien (@mrjamesob) May 12, 2021
Does he have to give it back now?
Never has there been a greater admission of utter failure than the quotes by David Frost in this article. He should resign and return his peerage. https://t.co/wcjzJDo7FR— Jessica Simor QC (@JMPSimor) May 11, 2021
The protocol, which was incorporated into the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to help avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, has left Northern Ireland tied to a range of EU customs and regulatory rules, effectively creating a barrier with Great Britain.
In a statement the LCC confirmed a “small delegation” of its members met the ministers on Monday.
“The delegation emphasised the need for significant change to the NI protocol to bring it back into consistency with the Belfast Agreement and to remove the clear change in the status of Northern Ireland that has occurred due to the imposition of the protocol.
“Members advised Lord Frost of the efforts they had to make to try and calm the wider unionist community and appealed to him to ensure that the Prime Minister honoured his commitments to seek, and if necessary unilaterally legislate, to reach an agreement on a workable alternative.”
The LCC is also seeking a meeting with European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic “to ensure that he understands how the Belfast Agreement has been breached by the Protocol”.