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The future of the UK-EU relationship

Following the speech given by Lord Frost earlier this week, Jack Semple, Secretary of EAMA (of which MTA is a member) has prepared an opinion piece on the contents of the speech as follows.

Lord Frost has commented further on the tensions with the EU and with France, particularly in the context of the UK’s demand for a renegotiation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.  The EU is about to publish its response to the UK’s position calling for a renegotiation of the Protocol (Ed:  see below).

His comments came in a speech in Portugal, England’s oldest ally and place of Britain’s first land incursion against Napoleon and his trade embargo.  In it, he referenced Edmund Burke’s 1769 comparison of the British and French economies and his assertion that “people must be governed in a manner agreeable to their temper and disposition”.

“The geopolitics of Britain’s position as an offshore island, with particular allies but global interests, has come back to the forefront, he said.  “The UK no longer has an interest in coalition-building across the EU to shape EU rules.”

Frost, who repeatedly referred to the importance of links to countries, put what appears to be a measured critique of the EU’s current challenges.  “We want the Member States of the EU to be prosperous and successful. We will watch how you legislate and whether you can develop effective frameworks for new areas of economic and scientific activity.”

“We look with fascination at debates that in some way echo ours, like that in Poland, Germany, and seemingly even now France about the role of the Court of Justice. But we cannot affect these outcomes except by example; and it would not be correct for us to try.  Our influence on the EU now comes through the power of example, and hence also through a healthy degree of competition. Brexit is about doing things differently… because it suits us and because it creates a greater variety of alternative futures. History shows us that it is genuine competition - regulatory and commercial - between states which has typically been the most reliable driver of innovation and progress.” That’s why leaving the EU customs union and single market - was essential, he said.

He also inferred that the UK will take a different approach to risk than the EU when he said that “We are going to get moving on areas like cyber, AI and gene editing… We are never going to adopt the same levels of checks and controls required by EU systems.”

About Covid restrictions, Frost said: “Arguably Britain, or at least England, is now the free-est country in Europe.”

Frost also stressed that “the hard business of European defence, backed by resource, deterrence, by sharing of risks remains vital to us…  Despite the very visible current difficulties, we will always look to have a constructive and productive relationship with France”.


As a postscript to this piece, the European union has since announced a series of possible concessions to the UK that would see many of the checks on goods and medicines shipped from Great Britain to Northern Ireland scrapped, although this has created adverse reactions from some EU Member States.  There does not appear to be any movement on the question of the European Court of Justice which was the other main thread of the UK’s position on the northern Ireland Protocol.