Brexit negotiations unaffected by exit of Cummings, minister says
The dramatic exit of Boris Johnson’s senior adviser Dominic Cummings will have no impact on crucial Brexit negotiations, Environment Secretary George Eustice said.
After days of turmoil in Number 10, which saw the exit of the Prime Minister’s right-hand man Mr Cummings and Mr Johnson’s director of communications Lee Cain, Mr Eustice insisted talks with the EU on a future trade deal would not be affected.
Speaking to Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday, Mr Eustice said: “The negotiations have been led by David Frost from the beginning. He’s got a very talented, experienced team of technical experts around him.
“He’s led these negotiations from the start and obviously remains in place and continues to do so.
“So I don’t actually think the departure of Dominic Cummings makes any impact on the negotiations, since Lord Frost has been leading those.”
Speaking to Times Radio, Mr Eustice added: “It’s also the case – and this is no secret – that when you’re in more steady-state times and you need to build alliances, build relations with others, well that’s less Dominic’s forte and I think he would say that himself.”
He added: “Dominic Cummings is a force of nature. He will do his own thing, I’m sure. But look, as far as we’re concerned, there’s obviously been an episode.
“He’s chosen to leave. I’ve no reason to suspect he’ll be writing a blog.”
The comments came after it appeared Mr Johnson will attempt to reassert control over his Government by meeting with concerned Conservatives following a power struggle which saw two of his closest aides leave Downing Street.
Chief adviser Mr Cummings exited Number 10 amid claims he had briefed against Mr Johnson and the Prime Minister’s fiancee Carrie Symonds.
The Sunday Times reported the PM will “attempt to get his premiership back on track” by establishing a policy board that will appeal to northern working class voters who helped Mr Johnson win last year’s general election.
The paper said the group will be chaired by MP Neil O’Brien, who helped former chancellor George Osborne devise the Northern Powerhouse, and added Mr Johnson will meet the Northern Research Group of MPs on Monday to listen to their concerns.
It comes after leading Tory MPs urged the PM to use the change of personnel to “reset the Government” following complaints the party and Parliament were not being heard during the time Mr Cummings held sway.
According to reports, tensions were heightened in Downing Street when the Prime Minister was shown “hostile texts” briefing against Ms Symonds, which had been forwarded to her.
Sir Edward Lister was announced as the interim chief of staff pending a permanent appointment, with the Times reporting chief Brexit negotiator Lord Frost, Lord True and Lord Bridges of Headley are each being considered for the role.
The dramatic events have come as Brexit heads to a crucial phase next week, as London seeks a trade deal with Brussels before the end of the transition period on December 31.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman, James Slack, insisted Mr Johnson was not being distracted by the row.