Prime Minister Boris Johnson is planning to travel to Brussels next month to meet Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President, and Charles Michel, President of the European Council, in a clear signal of his desire to bring things to a conclusion. The road has been a long one, with numerous figures playing their parts along the way – from David Davis, the first Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab, his replacement and Stephen Barclay, the last one, and from Olly Robbins, the civil servant put in charge of negotiations by former Prime Minister Theresa May, to David Frost, the current man in the hotseat.
Others have also occupied the limelight – not least Steve Baker, who served a junior Brexit minister in Mrs May’s Government before going on to become one of the so-called Spartans, a group of hardline Brexiteers who voted against Mrs May’s proposals three times.
Mr Davis was probably the political figure most closely associated with Brexit during the early stages, after being appointed to the position of Brexit Secretary in 2016, shortly after Mrs May became Prime Minister.
He famously clashed with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, who cast doubt on his commitment to the talks, while Mr Davis sought to appeal directly to EU countries, urging them to “put politics over prosperity”.
Who has had the biggest influence on Brexit negotiations?
Mr Davis was replaced by Mr Raab in July, and was reportedly nicknamed the Turnip in Brussels. He followed in the footsteps of Mr Davis and Mr Baker by resigning in November, citing “major flaws” with Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement.
Speaking in December, Mr Baker, who resigning shortly after Mr Davis for similar reasons, sent a warning to Remainer MPs looking to derail Boris Johnson’s EU Withdrawal Bill.
In a joint statement issued with deputy Mark Francois, Mr Baker, chairman of the Eurosceptic European Research Group (ERG) said: “We Eurosceptics, have fought all these years, so that we could live in a free country, which elects its own government and makes its own laws – and then lives in peace under them.
David Frost pictured with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier
“This deal gives us the opportunity to do exactly that.
“If Parliament approves it – we will be living in a free country again in just nine days’ time.
“Woe betide any MP who tries to stop that.”
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David Davis was appointed Brexit Secretary by Theresa May in 2016
Stephen Barclay was the last Brexit Secretary
On the non-political side, Oxford-educated Mr Robbins had served as as Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister and Second Permanent Secretary for the Home Office before being appointed by Mrs May in July 2016.
His approach drew ire from some Conservative MPs, who accused him of an “anti-Brexit establishment plot”. Many reacted furiously after he was overheard in a bar in Brussels in February 2019 saying MP would have to accept Mrs May’s deal or face an extension.
By contrast, Mr Frost, who previously served as a special adviser to Mr Johnson when he was Mrs May’s Foreign Secretary, is generally regarded as having brought a more combative approach to negotiations since being appointed to his current role on January 31 – the day Britain officially left the EU.
Steve Baker was a junior Brexit minister before resigning
Olly Robbins hit controversy as a result of remarks overheard in a bar in Brussels
In March, the Daily Telegraph claimed Mr Frost had sent a message to Brussels by sitting down for “a delicious patriotic breakfast of sausages, baked beans, bacon and eggs before leading a team of 100 UK officials into negotiations”.
In general, his approach has been more combative, not least with regard to post-Brexit fishing rules.
Speaking yesterday, he said: “Michel Barnier has to work within the mandate that’s given to him by member states.
“They, in their wisdom, decided that their opening pitch for this should be as far as possible the same as it is now.
Dominic Raab resigned as Brexit Secretary after four months
“So that the Common Fisheries Policy continues just as if we were a member.
“We find that a bit unusual because in many other areas they tell us nothing can be the same after you’ve left the EU.”
Mr Frost also stressed the UK would not extend the Brexit transition period beyond December.
With the transition period due to end on December 21, talks on a comprehensive free trade agreement appear deadlocked prior to a key deadline at the end of next month, when the bloc and London are to assess their progress.
Published at Thu, 28 May 2020 07:15:00 +0000