Foreign Secretary ‘will be better at doing politics’
The chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Simon Hoare MP, hopes new Brexit Minister Liz Truss will be “better at doing the politics” than her predecessor Lord Frost as he could “start a row in an empty room”.
Lord Frost resigned from his position with immediate effect on Saturday as he told Boris Johnson that building a new relationship with the EU would be a “long-term task”.
He had been leading negotiations with the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
London and Brussels are trying to reach an agreement that would reduce customs paperwork and the numbers of checks and inspections required on goods coming into Northern Ireland from Great Britain.
Downing Street announced last night that Foreign Secretary Ms Truss would be replacing Lord Frost.
In a tweet, the MP for South West Norfolk said she was pleased to be “taking on responsibility for the EU negotiations and wider relationship”.
Noting Ms Truss’ appointment, European Commission vice-president Maros Sefkovic said both he and his team will continue to cooperate with the UK in the “same constructive spirit on all important tasks ahead”, including the protocol.
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson believes Lord Frost’s resignation revealed the Prime Minister’s lack of dedication in removing the protocol.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said the new Brexit Minister must find “pragmatic solutions” to make the protocol work.
In his resignation letter, Lord Frost told Mr Johnson he had concerns over the government’s Covid policy.
“You know my concerns about the current direction of travel,” wrote Lord Frost.
“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 scientific change.”
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Hoare felt Lord Frost’s resignation letter seemed to be “from the same script” of Conservative MPs supporting a leadership challenge.
He added that if Lord Frost had spent more time focusing on his Brexit ministerial brief, rather than other government departments, he “would be in a different place”.
“I think it will be much better for MPs to hold the new minister account at the dispatch box rather than doing it in the House of Lords,” said Mr Hoare.
“The work will go on and I’m hopeful the new minister will be better at doing the politics, which I always thought was Frost’s weakness. He wasn’t, by his own admission.
“He never got - this is my assessment - the importance of trust in politics, about relationship building, and I think he’s the sort of person who could start a row in an empty room.
“Politics shouldn't be like that.”
Sir Jeffrey has repeatedly threatened to pull down Stormont if the protocol is not removed as it has created a de-facto Irish Sea border.
He stated the UK Government has been “distracted by internal strife”, and Lord Frost had been frustrated on several fronts.
“We wish David well,” continued Sir Jeffrey. “We enjoyed a strong relationship with him and his team, but this raises more serious questions for the Prime Minister and his approach to the NI Protocol.
“Whether on Northern Ireland's access to medicines, our economic prosperity and trade with the rest of the United Kingdom, or on the growing divergence between NI and GB, this protocol has been a deeply damaging deal for the people we represent.
“The Prime Minister must now urgently decide which is more important - the protocol or the stability of the political institutions.”
Sinn Fein’s northern leader Ms O’Neill told Sunday Politics Northern Ireland businesses have been “left high and dry in terms of uncertainty” as a result of Brexit.
“David Frost will be replaced by another minister and whoever that minister is, they need to find solutions, work with the EU, make the protocol work and provide that certainty and stability that is desperately required,” she stated.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood added that the protocol negotiations “cannot become a victim to the chaos at the heart of Government in London”. He felt that Mr Johnson’s days as Prime Minister “are numbered”.