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David Frost Joining The Cabinet Shows Brexit Is Not Done, Says Sir Ivan Rogers

David Frost Joining The Cabinet Shows Brexit Is Not Done, Says Sir Ivan Rogers
4 min read

Boris Johnson appointing David Frost as a minister for the UK's relationship with the EU is an admission that Brexit is an "ongoing and permanent negotiation," the UK's former chief ambassador to Brussels has said.

Downing Street on Wednesday announced that Frost, who led the UK's trade negotiations with the EU, would on March 1 become a minister in the Cabinet Office and a full member of the Cabinet.

Frost, who was appointed to the House of Lords in September, is set to oversee Britain's post-Brexit relationship with the EU and will replace Michael Gove as co-chair of the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee, which was set up to oversee the implementation of the Brexit deal.

The biggest challenge facing the committee is the Northern Ireland Protocol amid severe disruption to trade across the Irish Sea and growing unrest among Unionist communities in the province.

Sir Ivan Rogers, who was the UK's Permanent Representative to the EU between 2013 and 2017, on Thursday told the EU-UK Forum he believed the move was a "recognition, though they won’t quite put it like that, that this is an ongoing and indeed permanent negotiation, which is what some of us were saying in 2016.

"We aren’t at the end – we are at the beginning of a new chapter and there’s plenty still to do.”

Despite signing a trade agreement with the bloc in December, and leaving the single market and customs union on New Year's Eve, key elements of the UK's relationship with the EU are still to be determined.

The UK's financial services still don't know what level of access to European markets they will get, for example, with a European Commission decision expected next month.

However, Rogers warned that Johnson's decision to appoint Frost as his de facto Brexit minister was a sign that the government was in no mood to revisit the trade deal struck in December, despite a number of sectors complaining about the disruption it has brought. 

New customs and health paperwork has resulted in delays to meat and fish exports which have already forced some businesses to close, while musicians and actors have warned that they will no longer not be able to tour in EU due to the need for work permits and strict new travel restrictions.

But Rogers warned affected industries that Frost will not want to return to the negotiating table.

“There is still an expectation of ‘well they [government] can’t really have wanted that’ and ‘they can’t really have realised that this was the true implication for our sector so if we go and lobby them now and demonstrate to them what’s happening on the ground as a consequence of the deal they negotiated, they must want to rejig it, refine it, and reopen the negotiation in 2021’.

“I suppose in shorthand my advice is: don’t believe it guys. We are where we are.

"There’s no new negotiation to be had.

"There’s no appetite on either side of the table to reopen it. I don’t think that’s where David Frost or his boss will be or will want to be. I think that you should get on with life and face the shock”.Rogers predicted that there would be tension between the UK and the EU as they get used to their more distant relationship, telling the event: "It’s going to be a bit spiky, maybe more than a bit spiky. It’s going to be pretty bumpy".

He said: “When I look at where we are and even what has happened over the last six weeks, do I sense an enormous appetite on the part of the Johnson government to have a thick and close and warm relationship with the EU? No, I don’t.

"It’s not where he was when he was foreign secretary and when I was working for him.

"It’s not where he’s been as prime minister. It’s not what David Frost tired to negotiate last year. It’s not where they ended up at the end of the last year. We should not be under any illusions".

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