Liz Truss to take on role as chief Brexit negotiator
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It was revealed Lord Frost resigned in a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the weekend after raising “concerns about the current direction of travel” for the Government in light of Covid and warned Mr Johnson “not be tempted by the kind of coercive measures we have seen elsewhere”. One official said Lord Frost’s departure had come “totally out of the blue” but admitted he had “frustrations on various fronts”, including over Downing Street’s decision to abandon the UK’s red line on the European Court of Justice operating in Northern Ireland.
In response, one EU official told the Guardian: “Hopefully the new negotiator will be more pragmatic, making good relations with the EU and its member states relations a priority over the pursuit of a pure, antagonistic Brexit – we’re not holding our breath.”
David Bannerman, ex-Conservative MEP for the East of England, hinted that Liz Truss would take a hard-line approach to Brexit negotiations and could trigger Article 16.
He said of the appointment: “Don’t expect any weakening of line on Protocol. Article 16 beckons.”
Ms Truss’s appointment was “noted” on Twitter by Maroš Šefčovič, her counterpart in the EU.
“My team and I will continue to cooperate with the UK in the same constructive spirit on all important tasks ahead, including the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland,” he said.
Ms Truss will remain as Foreign Secretary and add Brexit negotiations to her list of ministerial responsibilities which includes international development, women and equalities.
Considering her extensive portfolio, political commentators have questioned how much time she will have to dedicate to negotiations.
But her fans in Whitehall will see the move as another win for Ms Truss, after a year of successful trade negotiations.
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According to the Conservative Home league tables, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has been the most satisfactory member of the Cabinet for a staggering 12 months and has been touted as a future party leader.
Although Ms Truss backed Remain during the 2016 EU referendum, she has since worked on post-Brexit trade deals as International Trade Secretary and is thought to be ideologically aligned with Lord Frost when it comes to Northern Ireland negotiations.
In mid-October, Mr Šefčovič compromised with Lord Frost and agreed to cut down 80 percent of checks on goods, meaning “low risk” British goods like chilled meats and medicines could be sold in Northern Ireland without strenuous checks.
But he refused to budge on the powers of the European Court of Justice in Northern Ireland and warned that the demand could cost the nation its access to the European Single Market.
If Liz Truss decides to trigger Article 16, the UK and the EU will immediately enter talks through a joint committee to find “a commonly acceptable solution” as a matter of urgency.
The UK would also be able to enact safeguarding measures to adapt trade passage in Northern Ireland straight away, but usually, measures cannot be put in place until one month after the article is triggered.
But the EU could also take “proportionate rebalancing measures” to ensure rights under the Protocol remain balanced – which would likely be contested.
Do you think she will pull the trigger and invoke Article 16? Have your say in the comments section below.
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