THE UK Government is seeking “significant change” to the Northern Ireland Protocol with ministers calling for a “standstill period” for trading grace periods to be continued.

Brexit Minister Lord Frost told peers “we cannot go on as we are” with the current arrangement, where a customs border has effectively been drawn up in the Irish Sea. But Lord Frost stopped short of unilaterally suspending the measures.

Lord Frost said the UK wants to strike a “new balance” on Northern Ireland with the European Union, having operated the Norther Ireland Protocol “in good faith”.

He told peers: “Instead we see an opportunity to proceed differently, to find a new path, to seek to agree with the EU through negotiations a new balance in our arrangements covering Northern Ireland to the benefit of all.”

The UK Government proposals include continued access in Northern ireland to goods from the rest of the UK through a regulatory appraoch which accepts both British and EU standards.

One idea put forward would be for UK traders to declare whether the final destination for their goods was Northern Ireland or Ireland.

In a speech to the Lords, he said the burdens imposed by the Northern Ireland Protocol “have been a source of considerable and ongoing disruption to lives and livelihoods”.

He added: “We have seen reductions in supermarket product lines, we have seen 200 suppliers decide they would no longer sell to Northern Ireland.

“We have seen difficulties not just on the famous chilled meats issue but on medicines, on pets, on movements of live animals, on seeds, on plants and on many others.”

Lord Frost said the proposals will require a “significant change” of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

He added: “We believe such change is necessary to deal with the situation we now face. We look to open a discussion on these proposals urgently.”

Lord Frost said the burdens would increase as grace periods expire.

He said: “These impacts risk being felt in the fabric of our union too.

“All dimensions of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement need to be respected, that is Northern Ireland’s integral place in our United Kingdom just as much as the North-South dimension of the Agreement.

“Yet there is a growing sense in Northern Ireland we have found the right balance, seen in an ongoing febrile political climate, protests and regrettable instances of occasional disorder.”

There were “strains” in the power-sharing executive, he added.

Lord Frost confirmed the UK is seeking a “standstill period” where existing grace periods on Northern Ireland are maintained.

He told peers: “At the same time (as discussions) we must provide certainty and stability for businesses as we do so.

“So we believe that we and the EU should also quickly agree a standstill period, as it were, including maintaining the operation of grace periods in force and a freeze on existing legal actions and processes.

“This is to ensure there is room to negotiate and provide a genuine signal of good intent to find ways forward.”

Lord Frost told peers that while there had been progress in talks with the European Union “overall, those discussions have not got to the heart of the problem”.

“Put very simply, we cannot go on as we are,” he told the House of Lords.

He urged Brussels to look at his new plans for Northern Ireland with “fresh eyes and to work with us to seize this opportunity and to put our relationships onto a better footing".

Lord Frost added: "We stand ready to work with them to deliver the brighter future which is in reach.”

Labour's Baroness Chapman said the statement was "an admission of failure" by the UK Government.

She added that the people of Northern Ireland are not "pawns in a chess match, and called on the UK Government to "simply deliver what they promised".