It will be a matter of opinion whether the exam turns out to be good, bad, or somewhere in the middle. The fact is that it would have less chance of being supported by Brexiteers if it hadn’t been negotiated by David Frost.
The Prime Minister’s chief negotiator, now Lord Frost, and Oliver Lewis, Boris Johnson’s advisor on Brexit, played an indispensable role in drawing up the revised Withdrawal Agreement and then this trade deal, and won the trust of the Pro-Leave MPs who helped Theresa May’s version and overthrow her tenure herself.
For the first time, Frost and Lewis were instrumental in educating the Europe Research Group on why Johnson’s version of the deal was different from May’s: a senior ERG figure calls these discussions “negotiations”.
The key elements were the filing of a British turnaround; the “high degree of alignment” as set out in the Checkers proposal of May and the possible decision-making of officials in an accession committee. The ERG officers recommended that their members support the proposed agreement. You will have contacted Frost and his team during the difficult year since the last election.
Frost was one of the few high-ranking diplomats to emerge from the Foreign Office – he’s a former ambassador to Denmark – who first hit the Brexit point and then threw his weight behind it.
After Frost first served with Johnson’s special advisor in the Foreign Office, he took him to Downing Street when he became Prime Minister. And it was Frost – and not Michael Gove, the cabinet minister responsible for Brexit – who delivered a speech last February explaining the philosophy that underpinned the government’s negotiating position.
“We are not afraid of proposals, there will be friction, there will be bigger obstacles. We know that and have taken this into account and we continue to look forward to future profits, he told his audience.
“We are not bringing a clever tactical positioning into the negotiations, but the fundamentals of what it means to be an independent country,” he said. This site described him, and not Dominic Cummings, as “the most powerful Johnson advisor” at the time.
Frost will now focus on his role as the prime minister’s national security. We pointed out, when his appointment was criticized by the usual suspects, that as the former Frost, Director of the Department of Political Planning, is no less qualified for the position than any of his predecessors (and more than Kim Darroch when he was appointed to the role).
While we are now waiting to read the details of the deal, we nonetheless applaud Frost and Lewis’ commitment to their negotiating mandate and recognize that without the commitment of this pair of Eurosceptics it is unlikely that it will be reached in its final form . So: a very merry Christmas to David Frost.