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Anna Mikhailova: the great frost who learned to negotiate from the Kremlin


Lord Frost, a supporter of Brexit in Whitehall, made his name fighting Britain’s battles with Brussels in the face of bare threats and hostile rhetoric.

His fearsome reputation at the negotiating table prompted Boris Johnson to declare his “greatest frost since the Great Frost of 1709” in his speech at the conference this year.

The two have been allies since Johnson was Secretary of State. When he became prime minister, Johnson appointed the former diplomat to take charge of the negotiations in which Theresa May and her chief negotiator, Ole Robbins, failed.

Known as “Boris’s Brexit brain” in Downing Street, Lord David Frost, 56, graduated from Oxford with a first degree in history and medieval French.

Lord Frost, a rare supporter of Brexit in Whitehall, made his name fighting Britain’s battles with Brussels in the face of bare threats and hostile rhetoric.

He began his career as a diplomat in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where his roles included working in Brussels and serving as ambassador to Denmark.

He left the civil service in 2013 to head the Scotch Whiskey Association. At the time, he wrote a pamphlet on negotiating with the European Union that advised: “Make what you want sound natural.”

Johnson brought him back into the government fold to advise him as foreign minister, and subsequently appointed him chief Brexit negotiator in 2019.

Johnson later praised his “tremendous efforts to secure a deal with the European Union”.

During his talks with Brussels, Lord Frost relied on advice from a book called The Kremlin School of Negotiation, written by Igor Rezov, an expert on hardball tactics from the KGB era.

The book, published in the UK in 2019, offers insights into Soviet trade and advice such as placing opponents in a zone of uncertainty where ‘fear is the most powerful weapon’. He describes Andrei Gromyko, the Soviet foreign minister involved in the Cuban missile crisis, as an expert in technologies.

Johnson brought him back into the government fold to advise him as foreign minister, and subsequently appointed him chief Brexit negotiator in 2019.

Johnson brought him back into the government fold to advise him as foreign minister, and subsequently appointed him chief Brexit negotiator in 2019.

Last year, Johnson tasked Lord Frost with joint responsibilities to lead post-Brexit trade negotiations and act as national security adviser.

The security appointment prompted a scathing comment from Ms May who described him as a “political appointee with no proven experience in national security”.

But Lord Frost never held the position full time, instead keeping the focus on negotiations with the European Union, as well as taking a seat in the House of Lords.

He has held his position since March last year as Secretary of State in the Cabinet Office, and has been a full member of Mr Johnson’s cabinet.

Since Brexit, Lord Frost has been leading post-Brexit trade negotiations, taking a remarkably tough stance and publicly saying he is not afraid to tear up the Northern Ireland protocol.

He took to Twitter to attack “French rhetoric and threats” over fisheries after a French minister said the EU could harm UK energy supplies.

In an important speech in Portugal in October, Lord Frost set out the challenge to the EU and said it “doesn’t always seem” that the bloc wants the UK to succeed.

He said it would “take two” to mend the “fractured” relationship between Britain and Brussels.

But sources said Lord Frost recently bemoaned the lack of movement on protocol, and said Johnson was too preoccupied with other issues.

Lord Frost says privately that Johnson does not

Lord Frost says privately that Johnson is not ‘focusing’ on Northern Ireland talks, but when PM does focus, he provides the political will to start talks across the line

In private, he says Johnson is not “focusing” on the Northern Ireland talks, but when the prime minister does focus, he provides the political will to get the talks across the line.

Last week, critics accused the government of “complacency” in its approach to the protocol as it announced that negotiations would enter the new year with a new deadline of the end of February.

Lord Frost married his second wife, Harriet, and had two children from his first marriage. He’s a passionate runner – but sources said he turned back last year when he struggled with Covid symptoms.



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