Stabroek News Sunday

UK Brexit supremo Frost resigns in blow to PM Johnson


LONDON, (Reuters) - British Brexit minister David Frost resigned yesterday over disillusio­nment with the direction of Boris Johnson’s government, dealing a major blow to the embattled prime minister as the Omicron variant sweeps the country.

The resignatio­n of Frost, a core architect of Johnson’s tumultuous Brexit strategy, raised questions about the future tone of the EU divorce and the immediate course of talks on Northern Ireland. It also added to a sense of turmoil in Johnson’s Conservati­ve government.

Frost said he was confident that Brexit was secure, but said he had concerns about the government’s direction.

“You know my concerns about the current direction of travel,” Frost told Johnson in a letter released by Downing Street.

“I hope we will move as fast as possible to where we need to get to: a lightly regulated, low tax, entreprene­urial economy, at the cutting edge of modern science and economic change.”

His resignatio­n was first reported by The Mail on Sunday, which said it was triggered by Johnson’s tougher COVID restrictio­ns but also by a broader discontent with tax rises and the cost of environmen­tal policies.

Frost said he had agreed with Johnson earlier this month to leave in January, but because his move had been leaked it should happen with immediate effect.

“We also need to learn to live with COVID,” Frost said. “I hope we can get back on track soon and not be tempted by the kind of coercive measures we have seen elsewhere.”

Johnson said he was sorry to receive Frost’s resignatio­n.

The departure of the British government’s most senior Brexit negotiator comes on top of warnings from some of his Johnson’s own Conservati­ve Party lawmakers that he must improve his leadership or face a challenge.

Johnson, who won a landslide election victory in December 2019, is facing the biggest crisis of his premiershi­p after a litany of scandals and missteps, which his opponents say show he is unfit to be prime minister.

He has faced a barrage of criticism since a video emerged showing his staff laughing and joking about a Downing Street party during a 2020 Christmas lockdown when such festivitie­s were banned.

Downing Street had denied a party took place. Britain’s top civil servant, Simon Case, has stepped down from leading the investigat­ion into alleged parties after it was disclosed that an event had been held in his own office.

The loss of a parliament­ary seat in an election defeat in a Conservati­ve stronghold earlier this week showed public dismay over the litany of scandals and stepped up pressure on Johnson.

Frost, a former diplomat who was repeatedly hailed by Johnson as “the greatest Frost since the Great Frost of 1709,” was a committed Brexit supporter who negotiated Johnson’s revised EU divorce deal and a trade agreement.

He cast the United Kingdom’s 2016 vote to leave the EU as part of a broader rebellion against the bloc’s transnatio­nal collective governance that wanted to revive the nation-state.

Having such a true “Brexit believer” at the heart of British power gave reassuranc­e to Brexit supporters in the Conservati­ve Party that Johnson would remain tough on the European Union.

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David Frost

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