Brexit minister, Lord David Frost, has resigned as the man in charge of overseeing matters related to Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) amid opposition to "coercive" lockdown restrictions due to a surge of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
Lord Frost, who led the UK's negotiations over the EU Withdrawal Agreement and has carried on talks over the Northern Ireland Protocol that governs arrangements between EU member-state Ireland and UK’s Northern Ireland, handed in his letter of resignation to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday.
The letter reveals that a plan for him to leave the post in the New Year was already agreed between them but that was brought forward after the ‘Mail on Sunday’ reported on his exit.
“We agreed earlier this month that I would move on in January and hand over the baton to others to manage our future relationship with the EU. It is disappointing 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,” reads Lord Frost’s resignation letter.
“Brexit is now secure. The challenge for the Government now is to deliver on the opportunities it gives us. You know my concerns about the current direction of travel. I hope we will move as fast as possible to where we need to get to: a lightly regulated, lowtax, entrepreneurial economy, at the cutting edge of modern science and economic change,” he writes.
With reference to media reports of his opposition to the increasing lockdown curbs related to Covid-19, the letter adds: “We also need to learn to live with Covid and I know that is your instinct too. You took a brave decision in July, against considerable opposition, to open up the country again.
“Sadly it did not prove to be irreversible, as I wished, and believe you did too. I hope we can get back on track soon and not be tempted by the kind of coercive measures we have seen elsewhere.” The resignation adds to a building tide against Boris Johnson’s leadership at Downing Street, coming in the wake of nearly 100 parliamentarians rebelling against the government’s Covid Plan B in Parliament earlier this week.
Under the measures, which were passed with the help of the Opposition Labour Party's backing, face masks are compulsory in indoor settings and large venues must check for full vaccination status before allowing entry. There is also growing speculation of a Plan C in the works to further tighten restrictions in an effort to tackle the Omicron spread.
Labour's deputy leader, Angela Rayner, said the latest ministerial resignation suggested the government was "in total chaos right when the country faces an uncertain few weeks".
Responding to Frost, Johnson praised his efforts at getting Brexit done and said he should be "immensely proud of your historic service to this government and this country".
Frost had most recently been engaged in negotiations with the EU over post-Brexit arrangements. This included elements of the Northern Ireland Protocol, agreed by the UK and EU in 2019, that allows goods to cross the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland without checks. The protocol has been criticised by some businesses for making it more difficult to send goods to Northern Ireland from Great Britain.