Frost’s resignation reveals Eurosceptics’ disappointment with Boris Johnson | International

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When British MPs begin to heat each other on WhatsApp when talking about Boris Johnson, to the point of mercilessly kicking out dissenters from the chat group, the party’s internal problems begin to get serious. It happened this Saturday, already at night, when the news emerged that the negotiator with the EU for Brexit, David Frost, had resigned. The group is called Clean Global Brexit (Clean and global Brexit), and there are up to a hundred deputies in it tories. The vast majority are convinced Eurosceptics who, at the time, gave Johnson enthusiastic support and propelled him to the leadership of the party and even Dowining Street. It is administered by Steve Baker, a calculating, intelligent and fanatic anti-European and neoliberal politician who long ago was in the direction of the famous European Research Group, the parliamentary current led by the flamboyant Jacob Rees-Mogg, who maneuvered to overthrow then Prime Minister Theresa May. When several of the participants in the chat lamented the “disaster” that Frost’s resignation meant for Johnson, and assured that they shared with the former minister their concern “about the current drift of the Government,” the new Minister of Culture, Nadine Dorries, exploded. This nurse, author of best-sellers Lighthearted, and very conservative on social issues such as abortion or homosexual marriage, she jumped to defend “the true hero who is the prime minister, who brought us Brexit.” “I know that regicide is part of the DNA of the Conservative Party, but a bit of loyalty to the person who gave us a parliamentary majority of 83 seats would not be bad,” Dorries reproached his colleagues. “Steve Baker has eliminated Nadine Dorries,” was the response of the Eurosceptics. Their leader had decided to expel the minister from WhatsApp chat. Enough is enough (Enough is enough), Baker finished off his decision with a brief, tired comment. “About time, thank you Steve,” added MP Andrew Bridgen. Baker still had to argue with other participants trying to highlight Johnson’s electoral strength, reminding them that the December 2019 victory was not exclusively due to the virtues of the current prime minister.

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This correspondent heard directly from Baker in 2019, at an informal lunch, admit that Johnson was a limited character, with many flaws, but the necessary vehicle to finally pull through a Brexit that was then stalled. Frost’s resignation, and the reasons he has given, has been revealing. If for Johnson that political flag was the means to achieve his dream, to be the first minister of the United Kingdom, for the Eurosceptics who rallied around him it was the end for a very different goal: to go around the country like a sock and go back to the Thatcher era. Frost has justified his abandonment of the Government in raising taxes – the decided and planned one – to face the budget hole caused by the pandemic; in the economic rigidity implied by Johnson’s plans to achieve carbon dioxide neutrality by 2050; and the new social restrictions – masks or covid passport – to face the threat of the omicron variant. But no one should be surprised or think that all these arguments are excuses. On November 23, at the Centre for Policy Studies (Center for Political Studies), a deeply conservative think tank and debate, Frost outlined his political ideology in a speech: “We cannot continue as before. If all we do after Brexit is import the European social model, we will never succeed. We have not pushed back the borders of the EU from Great Britain thanks to Brexit to re-import that model, “said the former minister in an intervention that paraphrased Margaret Thatcher’s historic speech at the College of Europe, in Bruges, in 1988. “I am happy that a free Britain, or at least a free England [sin contar con Escocia o Gales], is now also the freest country in the world in terms of restrictions by the covid. No masks, no vaccine passports, and keep it that way for a long time ”, concluded Frost. Like him, many of the nearly 100 Conservative MPs who rebelled against Johnson’s new social restrictions are disappointed with a government that is not fulfilling their libertarian wishes.

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Under other circumstances, and with another prime minister than Johnson, Frost’s departure would be a relief. What London needs the least now is a trade war with Brussels, after Frost pushed negotiations over the thorny Northern Ireland Protocol over the edge. Downing Street has signaled in recent days that it wants to keep talking, and seek a pragmatic solution to the customs and trade frictions arising from the application of that protocol. Johnson has tasked his foreign minister, Liz Truss, with the task of negotiating with the EU. Popular among conservatives – she enters all pools as a possible replacement for the prime minister -, with a vision as ideological about Brexit as Frost’s but more pragmatic and directed to the future – she has closed new trade agreements with New Zealand or Australia-, his election may serve to calm Eurosceptics on whom Johnson continues to depend to stay afloat as prime minister.

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