MAIL ON SUNDAY COMMENT: Lord Frost is a genuine patriot. His departure will be a grievous blow
Plainly more in sorrow than in anger, one of the most distinguished members of the Government is quitting. This is not one of those showy resignations where an ambitious Minister slams the door of Downing Street on the way out and hopes his action will eventually bring him the top job.
On the contrary, this resignation has been done courteously and discreetly, intended to improve the Government rather than damage it, giving the Prime Minister time to prepare before it becomes public.
For Lord Frost, the Brexit Minister, is the opposite of a career politician. He is a distinguished diplomat with a long record of skilled negotiation who gave his talents to Boris Johnson in the hope of getting Brexit done, successfully and to the benefit of this country.
He is a serious and substantial figure, a genuine patriot who believes in Britain. It will be a grievous blow when he goes.
MAIL ON SUNDAY COMMENT: Lord Frost, the Brexit Minister, is the opposite of a career politician. He is a distinguished diplomat with a long record of skilled negotiation who gave his talents to Boris Johnson in the hope of getting Brexit done, successfully and to the benefit of this country
He transformed the Brexit talks, symbolising a new, unapologetic and frankly patriotic approach by getting our negotiating team to wear Union Flag badges.
His approach was so unlike the feeble and defeatist attitudes of so much previous British contact with the EU that Brussels realised it was for once dealing with serious opponents, with an iron determination to stand up for ourselves.
He has shown equal purpose and principle in tackling the EU’s subsequent desire to punish us for leaving. Remainers must surely have been embarrassed to find that it was their beloved ‘Europe’ that had adopted a silly, spiteful and short-sighted position on Brexit, while Britain was the grown-up in the negotiating chamber. Lord Frost, as might have been expected, has responded to this behaviour with maturity and authority.
But his departure is less to do with the continuing problems of sorting out the details of our new relationship with the Continent and more to do with the PM’s conduct of the Covid crisis.
With his usual sharp perception, Lord Frost has decided that he has had enough of the Government’s increasingly European-style approach to the pandemic.
MAIL ON SUNDAY COMMENT: Lord Frost’s departure is less to do with the continuing problems of sorting out the details of our new relationship with the Continent and more to do with the PM’s conduct of the Covid crisis
Lord Frost has been among the strongest voices in Cabinet in favour of keeping the country open and for avoiding more legislative controls to deal with the disease. He is believed to have objected in principle to the idea of ‘vaccine passports’. He is also thought to have been disillusioned by the latest resort to regulations.
This is all of a piece with his more general disenchantment with the whole policy direction of the Government in recent months – especially on tax rises and the green-driven preoccupation with the target of ‘net zero’ CO2 emissions.
This view meshes with his public statements, disagreeing with the European-style high- tax high-spend economic model recently embraced by the Chancellor. Lord Frost believes that such a policy, whatever the excuse for it may be, is unlikely to deliver the benefits of Brexit. These are serious objections from a serious man.
Boris Johnson, who understands very well the value of figures such as Lord Frost, needs to heed what he says, and soon. The Covid crisis has caused the Government to wander very far from the principles on which it was so decisively elected. And, while it is easy to read too much into bad by-election results, it would be very unwise for Mr Johnson to brush the North Shropshire defeat aside.
It is because he has failed to deliver what his supporters want that they are now prepared to shift their votes elsewhere. For the moment, protests of this kind are just a warning, as Lord Frost’s departure is a warning.
But if these danger signals go unheeded in the year ahead, the Government will face a much more serious defection and its future could be in real danger.