It is clear from the UK-based media that sections of the community believe the UK is awash with racism (reader it isn’t – over past 10 years 163 people have died in custody in the UK, 140 were white, 13 were black, 10 were from other minority ethnic groups – none should have died). In order to prove this, mobs of angry millennials and Antifa activists have managed to vandalise the statue of Churchill, possibly the greatest anti-fascist icon in the world, and also without a hint of irony, the statue of President Lincoln, who if I remember rightly freed the slaves and was assassinated for his pains.
Meanwhile the pandemic has left the front pages except varying degrees of how fast the lockdown should be ended. Some, mostly leftist papers seem to want the workforce to stay out of work and risk the predicted 3.5 million likely to lose their jobs, others desperately want to get the country back working, fearing the ongoing impact of economic catastrophe.
One person though who has been at work is David Frost – until recently an unheard of career functionary within the civil service, and in particular the diplomatic service where he spent stints at the trade desk, the EU desk as its Director, and as the UK Ambassador to the Kingdom of Denmark, most importantly a period as a special advisor to Boris Johnson when he was the Foreign Secretary where he built up a personal rapport and relationship of trust with the new Prime Minister.
That relationship propelled Frost into his current role, which is the Chief UK negotiator with the European Union. This role means that it is he who is working on the methods by which Britain leaves the European Union. What is new is the way in which he is doing it. Up until his taking up the job the general approach of British negotiators was “Brexit is a disaster, how do we mitigate it?” Frost has gone to Brussels – either in person or now during the pandemic digitally with a very different mantra, “Brexit is an opportunity, how do we secure it?”
This week has seen the fourth stage in the process, and this new approach has begin to destabilise the previously urbane and unflappable figure of Michel Barnier. This former French Foreign Minister is the chief negotiator on behalf of the European Union.
Until the advent of Frost he couldn’t believe his luck, essentially those he was negotiating with people who would have preferred to be on his side of the table. This resulted in a draft agreement that at the time the Prime Minister described as creating a situation where the UK would be a vassal state of the EU, one in which was “”about as bad as it could possibly be”.
Sadly that robust approach was watered down and there is no doubt that the establishment in the UK has been using the Covid crisis as an attempt to yet again thwart the democratic decision of the British people – this time through extending the period of transition, it appears indefinitely.
But Mr Frost has ice in his veins and is taking things down to the line. The fact is that the Johnson Government has made it a legal requirement to leave at the end of this year, with or without a deal. Moves towards a free trade deal between the UK and the US are concentrating minds, (recent polling in the US by the Democracy Institute think-tank, shows that 55% believe a UK trade deal is good for the US and 58% that Britain is the USA’s best ally), and Frost refuses to be bullied. The latest round of talks has caused the EU side in Barnier to claim the UK is reengaging on a deal already agreed, however rather than cower as we may have done before Frost has pointed out very clearly that the broad agreement on the future of the negotiations (what is called the political declaration) was just that, a declaration and not legally binding. Now the rhetoric is being hyped up, Barnier has attempted to pull a fast one and his bluff is being called. He is, as has been pointed out in the British Sunday newspaper the Sunday Express,
““Establishing a framework is not the same as meaning everything must go in a legally binding treaty. Michel Barnier seems to think he is the referee when actually he is a player on the pitch.”
The rhetoric will get more heated as the days get closer to the end of June when the final decision will be made, and mark my words some bloodcurdling horror stories will be whispered about the dangers of freedom, but at last in Mr Frost, the UK has a negotiator who is prepared to stand up, it’s about time.