‘How tough did she REALLY want to be?’ Frost attacks Theresa May’s ‘weak’ Brexit strategy
Brexit: David Frost on Theresa May's EU negotiations
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The minister and former chief negotiator spoke openly about the problems he faced when he first went to Brussels to re-open talks on the withdrawal agreement. Giving his candid insights to the UK in a Changing Europe think tank, Lord Frost said he struggled to convince Brussels they were no longer dealing with the old regime.
Laying blame at the hands of Mrs May for her failed negotiating strategy when she was in No10, he said eurocrats saw Britain as “weak”.
He said: “There was an assumption that we were the weaker party and would have to accept certain things if we wanted an agreement.
“It felt like there was an assumption that we would wish to be closely aligned and would make certain sacrifices to achieve that.
“I think it took time for them to realise that wasn’t the case.
“We still had times that the negotiations where we had propositions of policies attributed to us that weren’t actually our policies but were policies of the previous team.”
Mrs May was forced to resign as Prime Minister in the summer of 2019 after failing to build a consensus around her Brexit deal.
Her agreement would have seen the whole of the UK stuck in the EU’s customs union if London and Brussels failed to agree alternative arrangements by the end of the transition period.
The EU was insisting alignment was necessary in order to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Speaking last night, Lord Frost questioned how hard the Government of the day had really tried to find a better solution.
“I do wonder how tough though they really wanted to be at times, I do sort of question that,” he said.
“I think there was obviously no agreement domestically on what sort of Brexit ought to be pursued and that became increasingly obvious.
“That obviously makes life difficult.”
As well as criticising Mrs May’s team for failing to be firm in talks, he also lambasted the Government of the day for failing to have the vision of an independent Britain not reliant on alignment to solve the problem of the Northern Ireland border.
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He said: “I think the biggest problem in my view was a set of intellectual errors around the Ireland/Northern Ireland issue and the nature of the border.
“It seems to have led to the conclusion that alignment was the only way to solving these problems.
“Hence it took you in a direction that ended with being in the customs union and the single market and the backstop.”
In the end Lord Frost brokered a deal that saw the creation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
In contrast to Mrs May’s deal only Northern Ireland is now a part of the EU’s customs union.
The Protocol has sparked controversy due to customs checks being required on some goods crossing the Irish Sea from Britain.
Lord Frost has accused Brussels of being “purist” in its implementation of the withdrawal agreement and has said the Protocol in its current form is “unsustainable”.
The minister is currently in negotiations with the EU to find a compromise on its implementation.
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