FTA negotiator Frost lands new role leading UK-EU relations - is on track for quick NI Protocol win

Thu 18 Feb 2021
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

brexit talks

Former lead negotiator for the UK’s post-Brexit trade relationship with the EU, Sir David Frost, will take on the role of leading the UK’s future dealings with Brussels.

Lord Frost will sit at Cabinet, replacing Michael Gove as the UK chair of the Partnership Council overseeing the implantation of the trade deal, the FT reports

Early win

He may already be on the way to bagging a win for the UK in the ongoing talks over the implementation of the NI Protocol.

The BBC’s John Campbell tweeted this afternoon that EU vice-president is “ready to move fast” on solutions to easing trade friction caused by the NI Protocol, saying he is “very much looking forward” to working with Frost.

Swiss-style solution

The two will get together on Wednesday for a Joint Committee meeting where Sefcovic may raise the possibility of Swiss-style SPS (Sanitary and Phytosanitary) arrangements for the trade of animal-origin goods between Britain and Northern Ireland.

The trade of products of animal origin has been disrupted by new Protocol rules requiring British traders to get Export Health Certificates, with goods also being checked on entry into Northern Ireland.

Under the terms of the bilateral trade agreement between Switzerland and the EU, a ‘common veterinary area’ was set up abolishing veterinary controls for trade in animals and animal products, according to the website of the Swiss Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO).

Sefcovic has taken on board a suggestion from the Farmers’ Union that a similar solution could be applied to the UK in order to ease disruption currently being caused by the NI Protocol, according to Campbell.

Power struggle

According to the Times, Frost’s new employment has effectively “stripped” Michael Gove of influence in the new UK-EU relationship.

However, according to Politico, Gove’s close relationship with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic has not gone unnoticed.

While Gove’s future role in Whitehall is unclear, the government is adamant that Frost’s experience negotiating the UK-EU trade deal last year was a significant factor in his appointment.

A senior Cabinet Office official said: “The EU have shown on their aggressive approach on vaccines that the PM needs his most skilled EU negotiator running these relationships.”

Hardline approach

Frost is seen as a Brexit hardliner in Brussels, which is unlikely to ease recent tensions.

Frost’s in-tray will include addressing business concerns over the deal he negotiated in December, including the NI border, shellfish, chemicals and musicians’ visas.

Just the start

The BBC reports that Frost’s appointment is a sign that Brexit didn’t end with the signing of last year’s trade deal and that negotiating with Brussels will preoccupy this and future governments for years to come.

Speaking last week to a select committee, Frost admitted the UK’s relationship with the EU since the trade deal came into force had been more “problematic” and “bumpy” than he had expected.