THE UK Government has not dismissed overruling the Northern Ireland Protocol – with ministers “keeping all options on the table”.

Brexit Minister Lord Frost told Parliament’s European Scrutiny Committee that the agreement, which was negotiated to avoid a hard border with Ireland by effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods, “isn’t sustainable in the way it’s working at the moment”.

He said the only way to make it work was to “hugely reduce or eliminate the barriers between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, goods moving in that direction”.

It comes after a grace period to allow chilled meats to continue to be moved to Northern Ireland was extended until September 30, but there is still no agreement between the UK and EU on how to resolve disputes around the agreement in the long term.

Asked directly whether this meant the UK could trigger Article 16, which allows parts of the deal to be unilaterally overridden, he said “all options remain on the table now and in the future”.

He added: “If the workings of the protocol are undermining the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, then the protocol isn’t doing its job."

“And one of the core elements of the Belfast agreement was that all the different strands, the three strands, had equal status, and at the moment, it feels as if the east-west elements of the protocol are not working as well as north-south, and clearly that imbalance is not what the Good Friday Agreement intended, so that’s the core of the problem.”

Leader of the DUP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson took part in a virtual meeting with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic on Monday morning.

He described his message to Mr Sefcovic as “simple – the protocol has not worked” and insisted that the UK Government and European Union must renegotiate.

But European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has said the protocol is not the problem behind a series of issues the region has faced in recent months.

Lord Frost said he was unable to reveal whether the UK Government would be looking to change the text of the protocol, or changes to EU legislation, ahead of an expected announcement on Wednesday.

He said: “I think what I can say at the moment is that it must work in a different way if we’re to find the stable route going forward.”

Unionists strongly oppose the additional checks on goods arriving into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK as undermining the Union.

Leading supermarkets at the weekend hit out over fears of the impact on supply lines into the region once various grace periods on checks end.

Sir Jeffrey said: “The barriers and distortion to trade within the UK internal market brought about by it must be swept away and not replaced.

“We have pressed the UK Government to that end. Both the Government and the EU must now renegotiate.”

Sir Jeffrey said if the EU is “unwilling to recognise the harm caused by the protocol” then the UK Government “must take appropriate unilateral action using Article 16”.