David Frost: EU sometimes appears to 'not want' UK success
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The former Brexit minister will give a speech today about the Northern Ireland Protocol and how the UK arrived at that part of its departing deal with the EU. Lord Frost, who resigned from his Government post in December, is delivering a keynote speech at Policy Exchange today. It will mark the first time he has opened up about the politics inside Westminster during one of the UK’s most turbulent periods with Brussels.
His appearance comes just as Prime Minister Boris Johnson moves to roll-out new legislation that will allow ministers to ripup parts of the Protocol.
The Prime Minister’s proposed bill would give the Government unilateral powers to suspend border checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain under UK law — but he has been warned that this would enrage Brussels and Washington.
Lord Frost played an influential role in the UK’s exit from the EU, his stint resulting in the revised Brexit withdrawal agreement.
While he successfully manoeuvred the country’s departure, unearthed comments show Lord Frost was not 100 percent sure about Brexit from the start ‒ and certain details included in the deal were not ideas he subscribed to personally.
Before the Brexit referendum in 2016, Lord Frost — not yet a Lord — was CEO of the Scotch Whisky Association, a trade group.
It was in this role that he wrote an article for Portland Communications, supporting the case for remaining in the EU’s Single Market should Britain vote to leave — something that did not happen.
His piece is littered with doomsday-like scenarios and predictions, all of which paint a bleak economic picture for Britain in the years after Brexit.
In one passage, he wrote: “There is no doubt that leaving would be fraught with economic risk.
“It would be a step into uncertainty and, in many key respects, into the unknown.
“If this is the situation on June 24, we will face an anxious and potentially turbulent time.
“It will require politicians and businesses to unite and work together to find the best possible route to a more settled future.”
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He even laid out some suggestions he would propose if he were a negotiator at the table, most of which he never managed.
Lord Frost wrote: “First, think hard about a transition via a Norway-type arrangement, if only as a staging post.
“Exit from the EU to a Norway model is probably the easiest thing to negotiate, because the model already exists, it would be hard to refuse us, and Britain would keep access to the single market and apply single market legislation.
“It could plausibly be done within two years. It would therefore enable UK negotiators to focus in the short run just on third-country trading arrangements, i.e. moving from the EU’s FTAs [Free Trade Agreements] to the UK’s own, probably via some kind of transitional arrangements.
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“Thereafter, it could be possible to unwind the ties further over time to something like a Swiss arrangement, but without the time pressure of negotiating exit, and allowing the immediate bad feeling between Britain and the EU to subside.”
This was not the only instance of Lord Frost championing the EU and its single market.
In 2015, in a hearing before the Scottish Parliament, he argued in favour of the UK’s membership of the EU.
He noted that for a Briton on an average salary, the benefit of the UK being a member of the EU was around £1,500 a year.
Ultimately, Lord Frost ended up falling out with the Prime Minister’s vision of the UK under the grip of the coronavirus pandemic.
He resigned in December 2021 as COVID-19 cases surged in the UK, and, in a letter to Mr Johnson, said he hoped he would “not be tempted” by “coercive measures” to tackle COVID-19.
Voicing his concerns over the Government’s handling of the virus and that he felt the country must “learn to live with COVID-19”, he wrote: “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.
“I hope we can get back on track soon and not be tempted by the kind of coercive measures we have seen elsewhere.”
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