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Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to take over Brexit brief after Lord Frost’s resignation

Written by on 19 December 2021

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will take on Lord Frost’s Brexit responsibilities following his resignation, Downing Street has said.

Ms Truss, 46, will become “lead negotiator with the EU on the Northern Ireland Protocol”, Number 10 said in a statement.

She will have “ministerial responsibility for the UK’s relationship with the European Union with immediate effect”.

She will also lead talks to “resolve the problems arising from the current operation of the Northern Ireland Protocol”.

Ms Truss tweeted that she was “pleased” to be taking over.

The protocol, which has caused considerable friction, is designed to avoid the introduction of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Lord Frost and Boris Johnson signing the Brexit deal last year. Pic: AP Image: Lord Frost and Boris Johnson signing the Brexit deal last year. Pic: AP

In his resignation letter to Boris Johnson, Lord Frost appeared to take aim at the PM over his move to Plan B coronavirus restrictions, following a previous pledge to make lockdown easing “cautious but irreversible”.

He added that we need to “learn to live with COVID”, telling the prime minister: “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.”

Downing Street also announced that Chris Heaton-Harris will move from the Department for Transport.

He will become minister of state for Europe and will deputise for Ms Truss “as necessary on EU exit and the protocol”.

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Shadow Brexit minister Jenny Chapman 8:17 ‘This government is in chaos’

ANALYSIS – JOHNSON HANDS ‘THORNY BRIEF’ TO LEADERSHIP RIVAL

Sky News political correspondent, Rob Powell, writes:

Despite voting remain in 2016, Liz Truss is a minister whose political stock is in the ascendancy within Tory ranks.

She is admired among Brexit supporters for the trade deals struck during her time in the Department for International Trade.

This is perhaps why Boris Johnson has moved quickly to appoint her to the Brexit brief; to provide reassurance for Tory MPs worried about the UK taking a softer line with the EU.

The foreign secretary is also seen as someone with her sights set on Downing Street, though.

This suggests she may be more likely to take a tough stance with Brussels, in an attempt to burnish her prime ministerial credentials.

But given these lofty ambitions, the more cynical in Westminster may wonder if Boris Johnson has handed his possible rival this thorny brief full in the knowledge that she may ultimately end up disappointing many.

Lord Frost’s resignation is seen as a severe blow for Boris Johnson, following a week in which almost 100 Conservative MPs voted against vaccine passports and the Tories lost the North Shropshire by-election.

Sky’s senior Ireland correspondent, David Blevins, said Lord Frost’s departure “couldn’t come at a more sensitive moment as negotiations on the Northern Ireland Protocol near their culmination”.

Northern Ireland’s former first minister, Arlene Foster, described Lord Frost’s resignation as “enormous”.

Labour’s shadow Brexit minister, Jenny Chapman, tweeted: “As if we didn’t already know, Lord Frost resigning shows the government’s in chaos.

“The country needs leadership not a lame duck PM whose MPs and cabinet have lost faith in him.”

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