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New crisis hits Boris Johnson as senior minister resigns

London: Britain’s Brexit minister David Frost has resigned due to disillusionment with Boris Johnson’s government, dealing a blow to the embattled prime minister just as the Omicron variant sweeps across the country.

Frost’s resignation was triggered by Johnson’s tougher COVID restrictions, including COVID passes, but also a broader discontent with tax rises and the cost of “net zero” environmental policies.

Britain’s Prime Minster Boris Johnson.Credit:Getty Images

In a statement, Frost cited concerns over the “direction” of Johnson’s government.

“It is disappointing that this plan has become public this evening and in the circumstances I think it is right for me to write to step down with immediate effect,” Frost said in a letter to Johnson which was made public by the prime minister’s office.

Downing Street did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

The departure of the British government’s most senior Brexit negotiator is yet another blow to Johnson, who has faced warnings from some of his 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 shows 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.

“Lord Frost tendered his resignation a week ago – but was persuaded to stay until January,” the Mail on Sunday, which first reported the resignation, said on Twitter.

BREXIT FUTURE

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 was, until his resignation, leading an attempt by London to renegotiate parts of the divorce deal concerning Northern Ireland.

Beyond Brexit, though, Frost was unhappy.

In a speech last month, Frost expressed his clear discontent with the current course of post-Brexit British policy.

“We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the European Union from Britain with Brexit, only to import that European model after all this time,” Frost said in a November 22 speech at the Margaret Thatcher Conference on Trade.

He disagreed with “those who think we can treat the private sector as just a convenient way of keeping the public sector running.”

“It isn’t just a source of taxes,” Frost said. “We can’t carry on as we were before, and if after Brexit all we do is import the European social model we will not succeed.”

After talks with the EU, Frost said on Friday that negotiations were not close to solving problems that the Northern Irish protocol he negotiated had created.

“It is disappointing that it has not been possible to reach either a comprehensive or worthwhile interim agreement this year,” Frost said. “A solution needs to be found urgently early next year.”

Responses to the shock resignation

The opposition Labour Party’s shadow minister of state at the cabinet office, Jenny Chapman:

“The government is in chaos. The country needs leadership not a lame duck PM who has lost the faith of his MPs and cabinet.

“Boris Johnson needs to get a grip, tell us his plan for the next few weeks and bring certainty for the people of Northern Ireland by unblocking the stalemate over the Protocol.

Nigel Farage, who led one of the main Brexit campaigns during the 2016 referendum:

“Lord Frost is leaving the government because he is a conservative and true Brexiteer. Boris Johnson is neither.”

Democratic Unionist Party Leader Jeffrey Donaldson: “This government is distracted by internal strife, and Lord Frost was being frustrated on a number of fronts.

“We wish David well. 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.

“The Prime Minister must now urgently decide which is more important – the Protocol or the stability of the political institutions.”

Reuters

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