Johnson drafts in trade chief as Brexit enforcer

Boris Johnson on Wednesday (17 February) drafted his chief Brexit negotiator David Frost as a senior minister in his cabinet with a portfolio as Brexit enforcer. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET / POOL ATTENTION: This Image is part of a PHOTO SET

Boris Johnson on Wednesday (17 February) drafted his chief Brexit negotiator David Frost as a senior minister in his cabinet with a portfolio as Brexit enforcer.

Frost will lead the UK’s institutional and strategic relations with the EU and police the management of the trade agreement which he brokered with the EU’s Michel Barnier last year.

A former advisor to Johnson in the Foreign Office before being appointed to negotiate the post Brexit trade deal with the EU when Johnson took over as Prime Minister in July 2019, Frost’s pugnacious approach to the talks often ruffled feathers with his counterpart Michel Barnier, particularly his repeated references to the EU as “your organisation”.

The move means that Frost will take control of all policy related to UK EU relations from Michael Gove, and entrenches his position as one of the key players in Johnson’s government. Gove’s duties will focus almost exclusively on domestic UK policy.

Frost tweeted that he would “stand on the shoulders of giants and particularly those of Michael Gove who did an extraordinary job for this country in talks with EU over the past year.”

Frost’s brief will also include “working on domestic reform and regulation to maximise on the opportunities of Brexit,” including in international trade policy, the Cabinet Office said in a statement.

He will also be the UK’s joint chair of the Partnership Council and the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee with the EU, alongside European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič.

The first weeks of life under the new trade arrangement have been a steep learning curve for many businesses, with many sectors reporting delays and new bureaucracy.

Last week, Frost told UK lawmakers that the teething problems in implementing the new trade accord and the row over the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines were the result of the EU “still adjusting somewhat…to the existence of a genuinely independent actor in their neighbourhood.”

He added that relations with the EU had been “more than bumpy” and “problematic” since the UK exited the EU’s single market at the end of last year.

In addition to the implementation of the trade pact, UK and EU officials are also battling over the status of the EU’s diplomatic mission in London which the UK insists will be treated as an international organisation and thus on a lower level to a nation state.

Emily Thornberry, Labour’s International Trade spokesperson criticised Frost’s appointment, complaining that control over the UK’s EU relations had been handed to “someone who has never been elected by anyone in this country, and won’t be accountable in the House of Commons to any of us who have”.

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