LORD Frost’s sudden departure as Brexit negotiator is bad news for Boris Johnson, but it could potentially change the course of tense relations with the European Union for the better.

Frost led the negotiations with the EU over the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and recent issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol.

But relations were beginning to sour, with Frost repeatedly threatening to use Article 16 - the "get-out clause" in the protocol which would allow the UK to unilaterally suspend provisions in the agreement, temporarily, if there are “significant” difficulties affecting trade.

This bullish approach had the backing of Johnson, but it was clear after weeks of talks between Frost and his counterpart, EU Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic, that there was a stalemate.

READ MORE: Lord Frost's resignation a 'wake up call' for Boris Johnson

Sefcovic had warned of “serious consequences” for both UK and EU relations, and Northern Ireland if the UK triggered Article 16.

In a statement released on Friday, after the latest round of UK-EU talks, Frost said there had been “some progress, but not as much, and not as quickly as we had hoped”.

He noted there had been some movement on the supply of medicines to Northern Ireland but claimed that “burdensome” trade arrangements have had a “chilling effect” on trade between the UK and NI.

The National:

Frost will no longer serve as the UK's negotiator with the EU

The UK’s demands to remove the Court of Justice of the European Union as the body to rule on disputes between the pair is a red line for the EU, but Frost continued to push for an “independent arbitration mechanism” instead.

For a supposedly lauded negotiator, Frost was never really willing to compromise, or there would have been movement in the talks by now.

Frost was initially due to resign in January, ahead of talks with Sefcovic picking up again, but was forced into a speedier resignation after the news was broken by the Mail on Sunday. He clearly had no intention of seeing this through to the end, despite the fact that he negotiated the terms of the protocol in the first place.

READ MORE: What is the Northern Ireland Protocol and Article 16?

With Frost gone, a new Brexit minister could turn the tide and come at the talks with a fresh approach. Dropping the inflammatory language and baiting the EU would be a good place to start, but that depends entirely on who gets offered the job, and who is willing to do it.  

The Northern Ireland Protocol is a complicated issue that has split opinions across the political divide, but at its heart it is intended to protect the Good Friday Agreement and remove the need for a hard border on the island. It is crucial that the next Brexit minister treats the issue with the seriousness it deserves.

Was this struggle to protect Northern Ireland and failure to fix problems in the protocol why Frost resigned? It doesn’t appear so.

The National:

Frost, left, and Johnson, centre, with Ursula von der Leyen

In his resignation letter, he claimed Brexit was “secure”, but didn’t mention Northern Ireland or the protocol.

But he did add that he hoped the PM wouldn’t be tempted by “coercive measures” and that the UK “needs to learn to live with Covid”.

He clearly agrees with the 100 MPs who voted against Johnson and the introduction of vaccine passports in England as part of Covid-19 prevention measures, the largest rebellion the PM has faced during his tenure.

Once again, a top Tory has resigned on ideological grounds, and not for their mistakes or inaction.

READ MORE: Nadine Dorries removed from Brexiteer WhatsApp group for defending Boris Johnson

After months of scandals from the Owen Paterson affair, to the row over Christmas parties in Number 10 when the UK was living under tough restrictions, this could not have been welcomed by an already under pressure Johnson.

His position is becoming weaker and his pool of trusted supporters is growing smaller. The PM is set for a turbulent festive season.

Johnson has lost a key ally and might be feeling left out in the cold, but EU negotiators have just been handed an early Christmas present.