Brexit negotiator David Frost quits UK govt: report

London (AFP) – Former Brexit negotiator David Frost has resigned from the government, The Mail on Sunday reported, in another potentially big blow for Prime Minister Boris Johnson.


The newspaper said Frost would leave his post in January owing to "disillusionment" with the direction of government policy, citing an unnamed senior government source.

Johnson's office did not immediately respond when contacted by AFP about the reported loss of a trusted ally.

The weekly paper reported online late on Saturday that Frost handed in his resignation a week ago, but was persuaded to stay on until the New Year.

The source told the paper that Frost was opposed to the government's new coronavirus restrictions, focus on net-zero climate targets and tax rises.

Johnson is already reeling from a rebellion by 100 of his MPs in a parliamentary vote over coronavirus measures and the stunning loss of a 23,000 majority seat in a by-election.

That was partly blamed on a slew of reports that his staff and aides held parties last Christmas despite virus restrictions in place at the time.

The by-election loss for Johnson's Conservatives intensified speculation of a leadership challenge, with Frost potentially eyeing a tilt at the top job.

The deputy leader of the main opposition Labour party Angela Rayner said the resignation demonstrated "a government in total chaos right when the country faces an uncertain few weeks".

"@BorisJohnson isn't up to the job. We deserve better than this buffoonery," she tweeted.

'Big moment'

Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen warned Johnson was "running out of time and out of friends to deliver on the promises and discipline of a true Conservative government".

"Lord Frost has made it clear, 100 Conservative backbenchers have made it clear, but most importantly so did the people of North Shropshire," he wrote on Twitter.

And Arlene Foster, who stepped down as Northern Ireland's first minister because of post-Brexit trading arrangements in the UK province, said it had huge implications.

"The resignation of Lord Frost from the Cabinet is a big moment for the Government but enormous for those of us who believed he would deliver for NI," she wrote on Twitter.

Frost has been locked in talks for weeks over the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol, which governs trade between the British mainland of England, Scotland and Wales, and Northern Ireland, and with the European Union.

London wants the agreement it signed up just last year to be scrapped, claiming it is not working. But Brussels is opposed.

Frost is especially focused on revamping the agreement's governance, objecting that the EU's highest court in Luxembourg has power over its implementation.

He seemed to be at odds with his government over the issue earlier in the week, when a government spokesman appeared to suggest there could be some softening on its position on the EU's role as arbiter.

The 56-year-old Frost was appointed as Johnson's so-called EU "sherpa" shortly after the British leader took office in July 2019, and became chief trade negotiator after helping to finalise last year's divorce deal.

A career diplomat with the Foreign Office, his resume features stints in Brussels in the 1990s and as ambassador to Denmark from 2006 to 2008.

More recently, Frost spent nearly three years as chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association and briefly became chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry.