Frost to take “assertive stance” in EU relations but businesses express 'caution' over appointment

Fri 19 Feb 2021
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

brexit dispute

Lord David Frost will take a “more assertive stance” in managing EU relations than his predecessor Michael Gove, according to allies of the lead negotiator for last year’s trade deal.

Frost takes up his position leading EU relations at the beginning of March and will oversee the implementation of the trade deal he negotiated.

He will also be responsible for talks on easing trade restrictions between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Too weak

An ally of Frost has told the Times that the former negotiator will not replicate Gove’s “chummy” approach with EC vice president Maros Sefcovic.

“He thinks Michael’s been too weak and should have done more to capitalise when the EU almost invoked article 16 [of the NI Protocol] over coronavirus vaccine exports,” they said.

“He wants to effectively renegotiate the Protocol, so that it does what the prime minister promised.”

Residual distrust

Diplomats and industry leaders have expressed caution over his appointment, the FT reports

However, Sir Ivan Rogers, a former UK ambassador to the EU, said Frost’s appointment would add to the “residual distrust” between London and Brussels on Northern Ireland.

Lord Kim Darroch, another former UK ambassador to the EU, said: “David is a former colleague and I wish him well, but I’m concerned that this move will sacrifice the relationship Michael Gove was developing with Maros Sefcovic.”

Businesses optimistic

Sefcovic and Gove held their final meeting together of the Joint Committee on UK-EU trade dealings yesterday (18 February).

Afterwards, businesses that participated were optimistic that barriers in Northern Ireland could be eased, the Guardian reports

Aodhán Connolly, the director of Northern Ireland’s retail consortium, said: “The messages that we are working as hard as we can, but that we need support to make it work, really seemed to resonate with both of them.”

Sefcovic tweeted that the meeting had been constructive and parties were committed to finding pragmatic solutions.

Unique NI

Meanwhile, economic development agency Invest NI is promoting the region's “unique” post-Brexit trading position.

A new webpage, published this week, boasts of “unfettered” market access to both Great Britain and the EU, and says the region “can become a gateway for the sale of goods to two of the world’s largest markets.”