Boris Johnson was dealt another major blow to his leadership on Saturday night as it emerged that the man overseeing Brexit was resigning from the cabinet.
With Tory MPs already warning the prime minister that he would have to regain control of the government to survive as leader until the next election, it emerged that Lord Frost is to leave the government after frustrations over Brexit negotiations and broader concerns over the government’s Covid policies and tax increases.
The shock departure represents another dangerous moment for Johnson, following a series of scandals and a humiliating by-election defeat last week that saw his party lose a 23,000 majority.
Frost’s departure is also another sign of the major fissures opening up within the Tory party.
The peer has been vocal in recent weeks about his concerns over tax increases and the reimposition of Covid restrictions. He is understood to have spoken out against a rise in national insurance to pay for health and social care spending.
He also has concerns about plan B Covid measures, which provoked the largest ever Tory rebellion under Johnson’s leadership.
At a conference last month he said: “I am very happy that free Britain, or at least merry England, is probably now the freest country in the world as regards Covid restrictions. No mask rules, no vaccine passports, and long may it remain so.”
However, Frost has also had to accept concessions over Brexit, with the British government dropping its demand to block the European court of justice from being the ultimate arbiter of trade rules in Northern Ireland.
The government has also backed away from his threat to trigger article 16 of the Brexit agreement, which would suspend parts of the trade deal agreed for Northern Ireland.
Whitehall insiders said Frost approached Johnson recently about leaving the government, as he felt Brexit talks were not progressing. There had been an agreement for him to leave at the end of January.
However, that has been brought forward after news of his planned resignation leaked.
In a letter to the PM released on Saturday night, Frost said he was “disappointed 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”.
Courtesy: The Guardian