Frost hits out as EU’s oak ban puts a dampener on Queen’s Jubilee
By Glen Owen POLITICAL EDITOR
THE row between Britain and the EU over Northern Ireland has jeopardised plans to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee next year by planting English oaks in the province. The infamous Northern Ireland Protocol, which for months has proved the sticking point in negotiations between London and Brussels, keeps the border with the Republic open but requires checks on goods from Britain. But under EU rules on plants, which Northern Ireland is continuing to follow, species such as honeysuckle and oak from Britain are prohibited. The red tape means people in Northern Ireland cannot plant such trees from the mainland as part of the nationwide Queen’s Green Canopy initiative. Writing in today’s Mail on Sunday, below, Brexit Minister Lord Frost cites the ban as one of the reasons why the EU should end the stalemate over the protocol. Lord Frost, who met European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic on Friday, has threatened to suspend the protocol by triggering Article 16 if agreement cannot be reached. Referring to the ‘intensive and sometimes dramatic argument with the EU’ over the protocol, Lord Frost called for ‘more ambition and more urgency’, adding: ‘The protocol itself says it should “impact as little as possible on the everyday life of communities in both Ireland and Northern Ireland”. But it is failing to do so. ‘The core of the problem is that all kinds of goods are not getting to Northern Ireland in the way that they do to the rest of our country, or face extra costs and delays if they do. That’s not fair on consumers in Northern Ireland.’ Lord Frost added: ‘As we approach Christmas, we’ve seen a stream of stories about products being banned and services being withdrawn because of the protocol. ‘Marks & Spencer has had to withdraw its entire Christmas product ‘Click and collect’ service from Northern Ireland because of uncertainties in delivery timetables.’ After their meeting in Brussels, Mr Sefcovic said he had ‘reiterated the need to shift into a resultorientated mode and to deliver on the issues raised by Northern Irish stakeholders’. He added ‘It is essential that the recent change in tone now leads to joint tangible solutions in the framework of the protocol.’ The two men are due to meet again in London later this month in an attempt to reach a deal by Christmas.