Former Brexit negotiator Lord Frost suggests UK-wide vote on Northern Ireland Protocol deal

​Former Brexit negotiator Lord Frost has praised Boris Johnson's “firmness” on Brexit, as he floated the possibility of a future referendum on Rishi Sunak's deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Former Brexit negotiator Lord Frost said ‘in time’ a referendum would be needed on the Windsor Framework and NI ProtocolFormer Brexit negotiator Lord Frost said ‘in time’ a referendum would be needed on the Windsor Framework and NI Protocol
Former Brexit negotiator Lord Frost said ‘in time’ a referendum would be needed on the Windsor Framework and NI Protocol

Lord Frost admitted that the former prime minister had “weaknesses” but praised his belief in Brexit in his latest swipe at the current government, during remarks at a think-tank event. The peer, who was appointed to the Lords by Mr Johnson and acted as his Brexit negotiator, also accused ministers of acting like the decision to leave the EU was an “awkward embarrassment”.

Speaking at the Legatum Institute yesterday, he called on Rishi Sunak to “double down” on the vision of the 2016 Brexit vote and the 2019 general election victory. “The 2016 referendum was a vote for change. But then old politics, in 2017 and 2018, messed it up,” he said.

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“In 2019 that vote for change was renewed. We did then finally deliver our national independence. There was a huge opportunity. But old politics is messing it up again. “The Conservative Party may not – on current polling, will not – get a third chance.”

Lord Frost said that “steady as she goes, in the hope of that people turn against Keir Starmer, is not good enough”. “If we are to prove that more tax, more net zero, more migration under Labour is bad for the country, we have to stop offering a version of that ourselves,” he said. “It is also unfortunately true that the government is doing rather little to rebut these criticisms of Brexit, which is after all its central policy, and in fact often gives the impression of regarding the whole thing as an awkward embarrassment.”

Turning later to the issue of conservative leadership in the UK, he said that Mr Johnson “undoubtedly had many weaknesses as a conservative leader”. “One thing he did have, which was absolute firmness on Brexit and what Brexit meant, and the need not to retreat from it intellectually in any way,” he said.

Repeating his call for a referendum on the European Convention on Human Rights, he also suggested a nationwide poll on the Brexit deal agreed between London and Brussels earlier this year amid efforts to address unionist concerns over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

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“In time, it will need a referendum across the UK on the Windsor Framework and the Northern Ireland Protocol, the last area where the UK government does not have the final say on, is actually not in control of, what happens in that part of the country.”

Lord Frost was among those in attendance at a speech by American think-tank boss Kevin Roberts, who leads the free-market Heritage Foundation. It comes as the Conservatives look beyond the next general election after months of dismal polling, with some in the party seeking inspiration from some right-wing conservative movements in the US.

Mr Roberts, who addressed a small gathering that included a number of Tory MPs including Sir John Hayes and Danny Kruger, railed against “leftists” and “elites” in his speech as he warned of the threat of illegal migration, crime, family breakdown, China and pornography addiction.

Sir Simon Clarke, a former Cabinet minister and loyal backer of Liz Truss, was among the audience and spoke briefly to defend the vision of the short-lived former prime minister. “The Conservative Party can only recover here when we realise that there is no future in trying to rebuild the economic or social or the political consensus of 2015. Those days are gone,” he said.

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