Katy Balls

Boris Johnson appoints Frost’s successor

Boris Johnson appoints Frost’s successor
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Who is David Frost’s successor as Brexit minister? That’s the question Boris Johnson has answered this evening following Frost’s surprise resignation — with the Foreign Secretary to takeover as the UK’s lead negotiator with the EU in post-Brexit talks. Liz Truss will retain all her Foreign Office responsibilities — with Chris Heaton Harris also to become minister of state for Europe.

So, what does this mean for the government’s direction of travel on the Northern Ireland protocol? There had been reports that Boris Johnson was considering appointing a Brexit ultra like Iain Duncan Smith to the position as a way of keeping his right flank on side. The MPs who make up the group have sounded alarm since Frost’s resignation — sharing concerns with one another that it could lean to a softer position when it comes to the protocol. It doesn’t help that Frost also criticised high taxes, restrictions and net zero. Frost had always been clear that Article 16 needed to remain on the table should talks to amend fail to lead to a breakthrough.

The fact that Frost’s responsibilities have moved to the Foreign Office means the protocol will be considered in a broader foreign policy context. Therefore an increasingly potent factor could be what falling out with the EU on the protocol means for other matters involving the European Union.

Through appointing Truss, Johnson has gone for continuity. He has also appointed someone who he knows is popular with the Tory grassroots which ought to calm nerves at a difficult moment for the Prime Minister. Truss has been at the top of the ConservativeHome Cabinet league table for a year.

Of course, Truss did vote and campaign for remain in the EU referendum. But since then, she has embraced Brexit and is regarded by many in the Cabinet now as a Leave voice. She was the first minister to back Johnson in the Tory leadership race. In the sub committee on the protocol — which Truss already sits on — it is Sunak who has spoken most openly about why triggering Article 16 would be a mistake. Truss is viewed as being in a similar camp to Frost.

It follows that Truss’s appointment to the role might not mean a change in direction. She has already shown a willingness in her current brief to talk tough on international relations. Yet the brief will test the new Foreign Secretary. With scepticism over a breakthrough anytime soon, there are no easy solutions to the protocol. Going into the new year, Truss will face her biggest foreign policy tests in the form of both the escalating situation in Ukraine and the NI protocol.

Written byKaty Balls

Katy Balls is The Spectator's deputy political editor.

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