With Liz Truss' global brief already very full, there is little doubt elements of finally delivering a 'real Brexit' may fall through the cracks if she is not given full support from the Prime Minister, argues Jayne Adye of Get Britain Out.

This week Liz Truss is set to host the EU Commission Vice-President, Maros Sefcovic at Chevening House for her first official negotiating session with the European Union since taking responsibility for the Brexit brief. While it may be commonplace for a Foreign Secretary to take the lead on negotiations with foreign governments – Truss' time in Trade has shown her to be an able negotiator – we are already seeing Truss may have too much on her plate to be able to properly take over all of the responsibilities held by Lord Frost.

Her recent strident statements to the media ahead of negotiations with Sefcovic, following on from a one-on-one meeting with the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, have undoubtedly been needed. However, we have seen statements like this before from Lord Frost, only for them to be nothing more than empty words.

There is scepticism about whether Liz Truss can properly tackle all the outstanding matters regarding the EU negotiations when there is so much else on her plate, not least dealing with a hostile Russia. This potential inability to spend the majority of her time on this important issue – through no fault of her own – leaves her at the mercy of advisement by civil servants within the Foreign Office, who have already shown themselves, on multiple occasions, to have a strong disdain for Brexit (when they actually turn up to their offices in Whitehall that is).

Brexit is still ongoing and requires the full attention of a senior Cabinet Minister. Yet despite this, Boris Johnson has not appointed a dedicated senior Minister responsible for making sure the United Kingdom gets the most out of Brexit and identifying areas of regulation where we can diverge effectively from the EU. There is still room for Alok Sharma as President of COP26 though, even after the conference has come to an end.

This was a responsibility which was previously held by Lord Frost, as the lead minister for the 'Brexit Opportunities Unit' which had recently been set to launch a major investigation into increasing the pace of divergence from the EU. However, following Lord Frost's departure, there has been no announcement about who will take responsibility for this unit.

Write for us.

We're always on the lookout for talented writers and welcome submissions. Please send your opinion piece or pitch to: editor@commentcentral.co.uk

This is even more important than trade negotiations with the EU over the Protocol. This is the outstanding area of Brexit which will have the longest lasting impact on the UK. Instead of the UK striding out with clear purpose to break away from the EU, we see the Government hampered by bureaucracy and unable to take decisive action.

We have seen swathes of promised changes as a result of Brexit fall by the wayside, including removing VAT on household fuel bills; implementing changes to financial services regulations; and changing procurement rules to favour British businesses. All of these issues – and many more – can be reformed entirely or partially, regardless of our negotiations with the EU. However, it seems there is nobody in place in government with the resolve to grab these issues by the horns.

Liz Truss' deputy, Chris Heaton-Harris describes himself as a "fierce Eurosceptic". However, there has yet to be any sign he will be capable of doing the majority of 'heavy lifting' in negotiations with Brussels, while Liz Truss concentrates on other duties demanded of her role. Worryingly, Heaton-Harris was all too happy to serve as a Minister within Theresa May's Europhile Department for Exiting the European Union, and work towards its 'Brexit in Name Only'.

I am yet to be convinced the important role of completing a 'Real Brexit' is in the right hands. However, I hope Liz Truss – as a former 'Remainer' and now an ambitions prospective Prime Minister – will ensure, however many sleepless nights she has to endure, that Brexit gets done.

The biggest problem both Truss and Heaton-Harris will have to face though, is the very apparent lack of interest in delivering a Real Brexit shown by the Prime Minister himself. If Boris Johnson really wants to resolve the outstanding issues, he should be more involved in discussions himself – just as during the Vote Leave campaign – or ensure those who are responsible have the capacity to give Brexit their full attention.

Lord Frost clearly wanted to reject the EU's intransigence by triggering Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol. However, it appears he found the PM too distracted by COP26, COVID-19 scandals, and apparent differences with the Chancellor over increased taxation at the very worst time for this county, to give him real support.

Unless things change rapidly, Liz Truss will find herself in the same rocky boat as Lord Frost. What's more, with the current scandals facing the Prime Minister, the EU may simply bet on waiting until Boris Johnson is perhaps kicked out of Downing Street. They may hope a more amenable PM will take his place, one who is desperate to put the last five years behind them and cling onto power until the next General Election. However, Liz Truss' own ambitions to be Prime Minister may just be the saving grace for Brexit. She knows if she can deliver in these negotiations and prove her worth by getting Britain out of Europe, then her route to 10 Downing Street may well be secure.

17 votes

Sign-up for free to stay up to date with the latest political news, analysis and insight from the Comment Central team.

By entering your email address you are agreeing to Comment Central’s privacy policy