Analysis: Where does David Frost's departure from government leave Boris Johnson?

When and if the time comes, Boris Johnson’s own resignation letter is likely to have similarities to that of his Brexit lieutenant.

Lord Frost resigned from Boris Johnson's government due to the "political direction" of the government, he said on Saturday.
Lord Frost resigned from Boris Johnson's government due to the "political direction" of the government, he said on Saturday.

Resigning on Saturday after news of his planned departure – set for the new year – was discovered, Lord Frost said he was concerned about the “current direction of travel” and speaks of his preference for a “lightly regulated, low-tax, entrepreneurial economy”.

Nowhere in the letter is the Northern Ireland protocol mentioned, though Brexit is several times.

The latter is, of course, where Lord Frost’s reputation amongst Conservative members and MPs as a ruthless, highly skilled negotiator was built.

The former is where his career in politics has, at best, stalled.

Let it not be forgotten that Lord Frost has spent the last year in government complaining about a Brexit deal he signed which included a protocol on Northern Ireland he, and by extension Boris Johnson, agreed to implement in December last year.

The issues around the protocol and the lack of positive movement (in the eyes of Tory and DUP MPs, at least) has dogged the government in the background during the pandemic.

This was most clearly shown when Foreign Office officials briefed to foreign journalists the UK Government had dropped a key ‘red line’ around the role of the European Court of Justice.

This shift was seen as a bitter blow to the most euro-sceptic among the Tory party.

It has also helped to slowly erode the wavering support in the Prime Minister amongst backbenchers who tend to be the most pro-Brexit and are often anti-Covid restrictions.

The Brexit minister’s resignation comes at the end of an extraordinary political week with more chastening defeats for the Prime Minister including the crushing Commons defeat over vaccine passports last week, and the most damaging sign of public discontent in North Shropshire on Thursday.

All of this, alongside Frost’s resignation, puts Mr Johnson squarely on notice within his own party.

Johnson’s resignation letter would share the same hallmarks as Lord Frost’s.

It will come from a man unwilling to face the fact he was the architect of his own likely downfall through populist jargon without following through, leadership without leading, and defending wrongdoers on his own side without considering the consequences.

Much like Frost’s omission of the protocol, these key aspects of Johnson’s time in power will likely also go unmentioned.

The Prime Minister’s time will come, and after Lord Frost’s departure, many Tory MPs may consider it should come sooner than previously thought.

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