Brexit Minister Lord David Frost has resigned from the UK government, citing concerns over the government’s “direction of movement” in the latest blow to Boris Johnson’s authority.
Frost resigned “with immediate effect” after voicing concerns to Johnson over the Prime Minister’s sweeping new coronavirus restrictions to tackle the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Frost said the UK must “learn to live with Covid”. He added: “I hope we can get back on track soon and not be tempted by the kind of coercive measures we have seen elsewhere.”
The departure of the government minister during such an intense period of negotiations with Brussels is likely to heighten Eurosceptics’ fears that Johnson will capitulate to post-Brexit trade deals in Northern Ireland.
It is understood that Johnson is no longer calling for the immediate removal of the European Court of Justice from its role in the application of the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol. Frost has been a vocal critic of the ECJ.
Frost’s allies have confirmed that he believes he has reached the “end of the road” in his negotiations with Brussels. In his letter, he told the Prime Minister that establishing a new relationship with the EU would be a “long-term task”.
“Brexit is now secure,” he said: “The challenge for the government now is to seize the opportunities it offers us. You know my concerns about the current direction of travel.
A senior Whitehall insider familiar with recent discussions said Frost made the decision because he could no longer accept the Cabinet’s collective position on the Covid-19 restrictions.
“The change of line on the Brexit and Northern Ireland deal was not at the heart of it. For the past three months, it was Frost who proposed the change in the role of the ECJ – he was more inclined to push for a deal with Brussels than the prime minister, ”they added.
The UK should tell the EU that governance issues can wait until they agree on practical ways to improve the flow of goods between the region and the rest of the UK. United.
The UK has indicated it could accept an arbitration mechanism of the kind that governs other elements of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, which leaves the ECJ as the arbiter of EU law. but puts the tribunal at a distance from resolving disputes concerning the protocol.
Officials have confirmed that Frost handed his resignation letter to the Prime Minister last week, but agreed to stay in the post until January, as the Mail on Sunday newspaper first reported. It was decided that this was no longer possible after the announcement of his resignation on Saturday evening.
Frost said he was “disappointed that this plan became public tonight and under the circumstances I think it is fair that I write to withdraw with immediate effect.”
Frost also expressed concern over the government’s decision to raise taxes to their highest level since 1950. “I hope we move on as quickly as possible to. . . a lightly regulated, low-tax entrepreneurial economy, ”he wrote in his letter to Johnson.
The prime minister said he was “very sorry” to receive his letter of resignation.
Frost’s opposition to government measures to deal with the new variant of the coronavirus reflects growing unease within the Conservative Party, which fears Johnson is chairing a “stealth lockdown.”
Johnson suffered a humiliating rebellion on Tuesday when nearly 100 Tory MPs voted against requiring a negative test or vaccine certificate to participate in mass events. The measure was adopted with the support of Labor.
Reflecting tensions within the Conservative Party, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries was removed from a Tory MP’s WhatsApp group after defending Johnson following news of Frost’s resignation.
Theresa Villiers, the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, called her departure “very worrying” and MP Andrew Bridgen said it was a “disaster”.
He added: “Lord Frost was concerned about the political direction of the government. The same is true of most Conservative backbenchers.
Dorries fired back: “The hero is the Prime Minister who delivered Brexit. I am aware, as someone said today, that regicide is in the DNA of the Conservative Party, but a little loyalty to the person who won a majority of 83 and delivered Brexit would not do of badness.
His comment led to his withdrawal from the group by the Eurosceptic arc Steve Baker.
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson, who has threatened to remove his ministers from the Northern Ireland power-sharing executive unless customs controls between Britain and Northern Ireland are removed, has said in a statement that Frost’s exit was a bad sign of the UK government’s commitment to abolish the Irish Sea Frontier.
He said Johnson’s government was “distracted by internal strife and Lord Frost was frustrated on several fronts. We wish David good luck ”.
“This protocol was a deeply damaging agreement for the people we represent. The Prime Minister must now urgently decide what is most important – the protocol or the stability of political institutions, ”he added.
Michelle O’Neill, Deputy Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, tweeted: “David Frost negotiated Brexit which a majority rejected here. He has since undermined the protocol, limiting the damage Brexit has on our people and our economy. We now need momentum in the talks to make them work better. The North will not be collateral damage in the Conservative chaos. “
Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie called for a swift replacement with someone “who understands the issues that need to be addressed”.