LORD David Frost, before resigning from Boris Johnson’s Cabinet with immediate effect at the weekend, provided us with yet another of his truly bizarre perspectives on the Brexit situation.

One familiar question came to mind on reading Lord Frost’s statement on Friday on the state of play in talks with the European Union on the Northern Ireland Protocol, particularly his reference to the “chilling effect on trade” of the arrangements (implemented to enable the Johnson administration’s hard Brexit). The question which came to mind for the former Brexit minister was, once again, ‘What did you expect to happen?’.

The former Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, throughout prickly and often excruciating negotiations with our long-suffering EU neighbours before and since the UK’s exit from the single market on December 31 last year, has seemed to attempt to portray a picture of the country as having been hard done-to.

It is a truly baffling stance, given it was the Conservative Government, all the way along, which seemed at pains to ensure the UK’s departure from the EU would involve a huge degree of friction, not just on the important aspect of trade but on myriad other crucial fronts.

Lord Frost, we should remember as the UK and its citizens continue to pay the price for the Conservatives’ Brexit folly, was instrumental in the hard departure from the European single market and customs union.

The UK was not only determined to leave the single market but also to shun regulatory alignment, compounding already major woe from the Brexit folly.

The Johnson administration’s eventual hard Brexit, for which negotiations were led by Lord Frost, therefore naturally and most lamentably introduced enormous friction in trade with the UK’s biggest export market (which had previously been hassle-free).

And both parties to the Brexit deal, we must remember, agreed to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The protocol, in the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement, was formulated painstakingly to avoid the re-emergence of a hard border on the island of Ireland. It creates a customs and regulatory border in the Irish Sea. Northern Ireland, to avoid checks and controls on the island, is required to apply EU customs rules and align with a list of single-market regulations.

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Clearly, the protocol would not have been required if the Brexiters had hauled the UK out of the EU but allowed the country to remain in the single market. Or if, far better still, Brexit had not happened. However, the ruling Conservatives were hell-bent on leaving the single market and customs union, come what may.

Lord Frost issued his statement on the Brexit situation on Friday after talks with European Commission vice-president for inter-institutional relations and foresight Maros Sefcovic. This was before news of the unelected Conservative peer’s intention to leave the Cabinet because of concerns over the Johnson administration’s “direction of travel” emerged along with a seemingly passionate assertion of an anti-restrictions stance on coronavirus. Lord Frost said: “I can’t speak for anybody else, I can only say what I think, which is that I don’t support coercive policies on Covid.”

In his Brexit update on Friday, Lord Frost said the main area of progress in talks with the EU on the protocol had been on medicine supply to Northern Ireland.

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However, he declared: “There has been much less progress in other areas. The burdensome customs and SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary) arrangements for goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland have had a chilling effect on trade, increasing costs and discouraging firms from trading within their own country.”

This statement surely shows the great benefits of frictionless trade, as enabled previously for the UK throughout the biggest free trade bloc in the world by European single market membership, and the importance of regulatory alignment.

We must remember in the context of complaints from the UK side about the EU that Lord Frost, Mr Johnson and co. took a negotiating stance which opposed regulatory alignment post-Brexit.

On the protocol and its effects, Lord Frost said on Friday: “It is vital to get the arrangements in this area right, given the overwhelming importance to the Northern Ireland economy of links with the rest of the UK. We have argued consistently that the simplest solution is to put in place substantively different processes for goods which all sides agree will stay in the UK and those which do not.

“These should cover not only goods moved directly, but also the increasing proportion of goods moved by parcel, and other kinds of movements such as pets, livestock, plants, and seeds. The proposals made by the EU in October constituted a step forward but, based on what we have heard to date, our expert analysis does not support the ambitious public claims made for them. Overall, it is not possible to envisage an agreed solution which does not deliver significant change in this area.”

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The point that springs to mind here is that surely Lord Frost and Mr Johnson, and all the other Brexiters in the Cabinet, should have thought of all of this beforehand. They chose a hard Brexit and all that went with it, having decided they would not under any circumstances remain in the single market.

It is pretty rich for any of them to point the finger at the EU, following the painstaking agreement between the two sides of a Northern Ireland Protocol which would give the UK its hard Brexit but avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Lord Frost highlighted his view last week that “neither Northern Ireland nor the UK more broadly gets any say on the way EU legislation is imposed on Northern Ireland”, declaring “this remains a fundamental issue of democratic accountability”.

And he said: “Our preference would be to reach a comprehensive solution dealing with all the issues. However, given the gravity and urgency of the difficulties, we have been prepared to consider an interim agreement as a first step to deal with the most acute problems, including trade frictions, subsidy control, and governance. Such an agreement would still leave many underlying strains unresolved, for example those caused by diverging UK and EU rules over time. It would therefore be inherently provisional by nature and would accordingly need to include mechanisms for addressing outstanding issues and resolving new concerns as they arise.”

This passage throws into stark relief the quagmire the Conservative Government has blundered into with its hard Brexit. “Gravity” and “urgency” are interesting words for a situation created by the Johnson administration.

The ruling Tory Brexiters’ attempts to extricate themselves to some degree from the quagmire have not, unsurprisingly given you can understand why the EU would want to stick with the deal agreed by both sides, seen the bloc fall over itself to capitulate to all British demands.

Lord Frost said: “The UK has proposed a number of possible ways forward, but regrettably it has not so far been possible to make progress even on what the core elements of an interim agreement might be.”

It is a mess. Trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland has been a shambles, hitting businesses and consumers hard. Of course, the grim friction extends to all trade between Britain and the EU these days, and the impact of the loss of trouble-free single market membership is huge.

What it is crucial to keep in mind as this whole sorry shambles continues is that it is a mess of the UK Government’s own making, with Lord Frost and Mr Johnson having played leading roles in this.