‘Underestimated EU’ Smug Barnier issues parting shot at Frost in threat to Truss

Lord Frost ‘at top of list’ of PM successors says commentator

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Michel Barnier said that Lord Frost’s resignation as Brexit Secretary – which emerged at the weekend – had turned “a long page”. However, he praised Lord Frost as a “clever minister” who was “convinced of his idea of sovereignty”.

Lord Frost’s decision to quit his ministerial role was first reported on Saturday, with his resignation letter citing concerns over the Government’s “direction of travel”

Though he was commendatory of the Government’s support during Brexit talks, he held reservations about the move to tighter coronavirus restrictions.

Lord Frost had served as the UK’s Brexit negotiator for the final months of talks between the UK and the EU last year.

He was then appointed Brexit Secretary and became the figurehead in discussions over the Northern Ireland Protocol, and an ongoing row with France over fishing licenses.

In his resignation letter, he wrote that Mr Johnson had served as “an outstanding leader” through the Brexit process.

The pair had a “close common understanding” of their aims in that area.

However, as “Brexit is now secure”, Lord Frost told the Prime Minister: “You know my concerns about the current direction of travel.

“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.

“Three hundred years of history show that countries which take that route grow and prosper, and I am confident we will too.”

He added: “We also need to learn to live with Covid and I know that is your instinct too.

“You took a brave decision in July, against considerable opposition, to open up the country again.

“Sadly it did not prove to be irreversible, as I wished, and believe you did too.

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“I hope we can get back on track soon and not be tempted by the kind of coercive measures we have seen elsewhere.”

Tweeting last night, Mr Barnier said: “With [Lord] Frost’s resignation, a long page has been turned!

“He never convinced me of any added value from Brexit, neither for the UK nor for us.

“I will, however, remember a clever minister, convinced of his idea of sovereignty, with whom we agreed the NI Protocol in 2019 and a barebones trade and cooperation agreement in 2020.

“I think he always underestimated the unity of Europeans, our attachment to the single market and the mandate I had from EU’s leaders.”

The loss of Lord Frost from the top of Government was the latest blow for Mr Johnson, who has had to weather a disastrous by-election loss and a backbench rebellion over vaccine passports.

Speaking to Andrew Marr on Sunday, Sajid Javid said that Lord Frost was an “outstanding public servant”.

The Health Secretary added that while he disagreed with Lord Frost’s concerns, he recognised that the peer had “resigned out of principle […] and we have to respect that”.

Lord Frost had been convinced to stay on in his role until January. However, since the arrangement had been made public, he would leave with “immediate effect”.

On Sunday, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was confirmed as having taken over his Brexit brief.

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