Shocking resignation of Brexit minister leaves Boris Johnson in shock | David frost

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Boris Johnson suffered another blow to his leaders on Saturday night when it emerged the man overseeing Brexit was resigning from cabinet.

With Tory MPs already warning the PM that he would have to take back control of government to survive as leader until the next election, it emerged Lord Frost would be leaving government after frustrations over Brexit negotiations and broader concerns about government policies against Covid. and tax increases.

The shock start represents another dangerous moment for Johnson, following a string of scandals and a humiliating partial electoral defeat last week that saw his party lose a majority of 23,000.

Frost’s departure is also another sign of the major cracks opening within the Conservative Party.

The peer has expressed concerns in recent weeks over tax increases and the reimposition of Covid restrictions. He is said to have spoken out against an increase in national insurance to pay for health and social care expenses.

He is also concerned about the Covid Plan B measures, which sparked the biggest Tory rebellion on record under Johnson’s leadership.

Speaking at a conference last month, he said: ‘I am very happy that free Britain, or at least happy England, is now probably the freest country in the world when it comes to Covid restrictions. . No rules on masks, no vaccine passports, and let it stay that way for a long time. “

However, Frost also had to accept concessions on Brexit, as the UK government dropped its demand to prevent the European Court of Justice from being the ultimate arbiter of trade rules in Northern Ireland.

The government has also backed down from its threat to trigger Article 16 of the Brexit deal, which would suspend parts of the trade deal reached for Northern Ireland.

Whitehall insiders said Frost had recently approached Johnson about leaving government because he felt Brexit talks were not moving forward. There had been an agreement for him to leave at the end of January. However, this was brought forward after news of his planned resignation leaked.

In a letter to the Prime Minister released on Saturday evening, Frost said he was “disappointed that this plan has become public tonight and under the circumstances I think it is fair that I am writing to withdraw with immediate effect.” .

Frost thanked Johnson and said: “Brexit is now secure… the challenge for the government now is to seize the opportunities it offers us. You know my concerns about the current direction of travel.

He also said he was sad that the unlocking of Covid restrictions did not turn out to be “irreversible” as promised, and added: “I hope we can get back on track soon and not be tempted by the kind of enforcement action we’ve seen elsewhere. “

He also expressed his wish for the UK to become a “lightly regulated, low tax” country.

In his response, Johnson was “very sorry” to have received his resignation.

Former Northern Ireland prime minister Arlene Foster called Frost’s resignation “huge”. Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Layla Moran said: “Rats are fleeing Boris Johnson’s sinking ship. “

Prominent Brexiter Tory Andrew Bridgen called Frost’s exit a “watershed moment”.

He told Times Radio it was a “devastating blow” to the government and Johnson and suggested that many MPs would consider the Prime Minister’s future at Christmas.

Johnson, he tweeted, “lacked the time and friends to keep the promises and discipline of a true Tory government.”

He added: “Lord Frost was clear, 100 Tory backbenchers made it clear, but most importantly, the people of North Shropshire did.”

Several high-ranking Tory MPs have said they believe the rapid price hike and tax hikes in the spring, followed by a beating for Tories in the May local election, would mark the start of the end of the term. by Johnson.

After the humiliating by-election defeat to the Lib Dems in the previously secure Tory seat of North Shropshire, the PM is told he has only three to four months to turn the tide or risk being ousted.

While MPs from all wings of the party agree that with the Omicron variant spreading like wildfire, now is not the time to strike, many are starting to fear for their own seats in the next general election, and say that May will be the decisive month. Frustration runs deep and anger runs high, but MPs say they must wait for now.

A former minister said: ‘If there was no pandemic I would write and sign my letter now and send it to Graham Brady [chair of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers] spark a leadership race. And I think most of us would do the same.

Another former minister said while MPs agreed Johnson should have time to reclaim some ground in the New Year – after a disastrous period in which filth and scandals from rule-breaking parties No 10 made headlines – few were convinced it would change. .

The former minister said: “Boris is not prepared to recruit new people, he is not prepared to reconnect with the parliamentary party, he is not prepared to do the heavy lifting, he is not not ready to do the details.

“Everyone says, ‘Let’s go through the process to give it the opportunity to change,’ but we all know where it’s going and it’s not pleasant. We are heading towards a leadership challenge. The next criterion is local elections.

Martin Vickers, a Johnson loyalist and member of the 1922 committee executive, said he was ‘confident’ the PM could reaffirm the strong leadership he showed ahead of the 2016 Brexit referendum and election of 2019, but added: “He has to do it straight away and avoid the drift of the last few weeks.

Charles Walker, former vice-chairman of the 1922 committee, said it would be “unreasonable” to try to get rid of Johnson in the next few weeks, but warned of hard times ahead as the cost of life increases.

“The next six months are going to be extremely difficult for a variety of reasons, but mainly Omicron and the impact that a new iteration of this virus will have on already fractured supply chains and the cost of living,” he said. declared.

“The Conservative Party is not in a position to have a leadership contest under these circumstances. It is simply not reasonable. Having said that, it is clear that over the next three months we cannot revisit the past three months. “

Great Conservative Sir Roger Gale last week became the first Tory to say he sent his letter to Brady. According to party rules, if the committee chair receives 54 letters in favor of a vote of no confidence in Johnson, he will have to organize one.

While British voters are now starting to blame the government for the price hike, the Tories fear a change at the top may be their only hope. Next spring, the government will be under pressure from a combination of tax hikes and price hikes that will further erode living standards.

In April, energy regulator Ofgem is expected to authorize a significant increase in the gas price cap that protects millions of households from volatile wholesale prices. Several major gas suppliers have gone bankrupt in recent months after failing to stem losses resulting from supplying households with energy at below-market prices.

While Deputy Leader of the Labor Party Angela Rayner said the news showed “a government in utter chaos just as the country faces a few uncertain weeks”.


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