UK Brexit leader resigns over Boris Johnson government ‘leadership’ – POLITICO
LONDON – David Frost has resigned from the government of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a key moment in talks with Brussels.
In a letter to Johnson, published by Number 10 Downing Street on Saturday evening, Frost, who was the UK minister responsible for the Brexit negotiations, said he was stepping down with immediate effect to “pass the baton to others to manage our future relations with the EU.
He had planned to resign in January, but put it forward after news of his resignation broke through the Mail on Sunday Saturday night.
Frost said that while Brexit was “now secure”, he was concerned about “the current direction of travel” when it comes to taking advantage of the opportunities of Britain’s departure from the European Union.
âI hope we get as fast as possible to where we need to go: a lightly regulated, low-tax, entrepreneurial economy at the forefront of modern science and economic change. Three hundred years of history shows that countries that take this path grow and prosper, and I have no doubts that we will too, âhe said.
The news comes after a terrible week for Johnson. After the British Prime Minister suffered a massive rebellion in the House of Commons on Wednesday from his own MPs over his COVID-19 Brexit policy, voters outright overturned a massive Conservative majority on Thursday in an election partial in North Shropshire which was sparked by its mismanagement of a lobbying scandal.
Yesterday Johnson’s top official Simon Case was forced to steer clear of an investigation into rule-breaking parties at 10 Downing Street after it emerged he attended a meeting impromptu Christmas drink in his government office last year in an apparent violation of COVID Rules.
Frost, a Johnson loyalist who was his special adviser when he was foreign minister, was knighted by the PM so he could join the government and lead negotiations with Brussels on the implementation of the deal on Brexit. He then became Minister of the Cabinet Office in March.
He was previously Johnson’s Brexit adviser and led negotiations on the trade deal with Brussels, which was announced on Christmas Eve last year.
This year, Frost led the UK negotiating team in discussions on post-Brexit trade rules in Northern Ireland, but did not resolve any of the outstanding issues.
Frost had repeatedly warned that the UK was prepared to scupper talks and trigger Article 16, which allows either side to take unilateral action to protect themselves if the Brexit deal resulted in ” serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties likely to persist, or trade diversion.
But Chancellor Rishi Sunak stepped in to urge that Article 16 not be triggered until Christmas, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiations.
European Commission Vice-President MaroÅ¡ Å efÄoviÄ and Frost spoke for the last time this year on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Frost said in a statement after the meeting that the UK was keen to reach an “interim deal” with the Commission early in the new year and was prepared to put aside sensitive issues such as the divergence in regulations, including for manufactures, for later – an apparent relaxation of Britain’s position.
The Mail quotes a high-level government source who said that Frost’s departure “was prompted by the introduction of” Plan B “Covid measures, including vaccine passports,” which have been controversial among many conservatives.
Nearly 100 Tory MPs rebelled in a vote in the House of Commons last week on the British Prime Minister’s COVID-19 policy.
In his letter, Frost said the UK must “learn to live with Covid”, warning the Prime Minister not to be “tempted by the kind of coercive measures we have seen elsewhere”.
The newspaper also said Frost was unhappy with Johnson’s tax increases and environmental policies.
Frost is popular with conservative grassroots members. A ranking by the Conservative Home website placed it second behind Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in terms of net satisfaction rating.
The British government announced last week that it was delaying post-Brexit checks due Jan. 1 on goods entering Britain from the island of Ireland.
His departure should be welcomed in European capitals.
In Dublin, a government official said Frost’s departure would be viewed with relief and could make a deal on the Northern Ireland protocol possible early in the new year.
“This effort desperately needs a dose of realism on the part of the British government to reach an end point, and too often it [Frost] preferred to fabricate problems than to engage, âsaid the Irish official, who spoke on condition that they were not identified.
âIt is not possible to come to an agreement when one party just complains, raises new and impossible demands like the [European Court of Justice] and offers nothing constructive in response to the comprehensive and reasonable proposals of Brussels. His constant threats to trigger Article 16 have always been counterproductive and, in the end, bordered on the absurd. Hopefully his successor will abandon this act.
Julian Smith, who was Northern Ireland’s secretary in the government of former British Prime Minister Theresa May, tweeted: “Dogma has run its course”. He said that in the final negotiations with the EU, Northern Ireland’s interests “across the community must now come first”.
Who Johnson puts in Frost’s shoes could have huge political implications. Frost had the confidence of Brexiteer MPs and had a good relationship with trade unionists in Northern Ireland.
Democratic Unionist Party leader Jeffrey Donaldson, who threatened to collapse Northern Ireland’s political institutions over his party’s dissatisfaction with the protocol, said in a statement that Frost had been “Frustrated on several fronts”. Frost’s departure raised “more serious questions for the Prime Minister and his approach to the NI protocol,” he added. “The prime minister must now urgently decide what is most important – protocol or the stability of political institutions,” he warned.
Shawn Pogatchnik and Emilio Casalicchio contributed reporting.