Sunak and Gove urge compromise as Frost says UK ‘may not succeed’ in avoiding no-deal

Britain chief negotiator insists Downing Street’s red lines remain in place for last-ditch crunch talks

Britain's chief Brexit negotiator David Frost walks in central London
Britain’s Brexit negotiations boss David Frost
(Image credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images)

Senior cabinet members are reportedly pushing for the UK to agree to a compromise with the EU in order to reach a Brexit deal, as Downing Street’s chief negotiator warns that the country’s red lines have not changed ahead of the resumption of crunch talks.

Government insiders say that Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove “are among a group of senior government figures now urging caution over a looming no-deal scenario”, according to Politico.

Sunak and Gove - both Brexiteers - are said to be “more inclined toward getting a deal over the line soon”, the news site reports, but chief negotiator David Frost is “more inclined to hold out for a better offer from the EU”.

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Frost warned yesterday that “he was not prepared to compromise on his core principles” to secure a post-Brexit trade agreement, says The Times.

“We are working to get a deal, but the only one that’s possible is one that is compatible with our sovereignty and takes back control of our laws, our trade, and our waters,” he tweeted. “That has been our consistent position from the start and I will not be changing it.”

Following the departure last week of Dominic Cummings from No. 10, Frost “met Johnson to demand assurances that the shake-up of the prime minister’s team would not result in a change in strategy”, the paper reports.

But while Johnson is understood to have agreed to that demand, not everyone is backing the hard-line stance. An official told Politico that Sunak is “anxious about the impact of a no-deal scenario”.

Gove also “isn’t always on the same page” as the “generally harder-nosed Frost”, another official added.

“Gove is more worried about trying to make sure there is a deal. Not at any cost, but he probably sees it with a bit more urgency than Frost,” said the insider.

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Joe Evans is the world news editor at He joined the team in 2019 and held roles including deputy news editor and acting news editor before moving into his current position in early 2021. He is a regular panellist on The Week Unwrapped podcast, discussing politics and foreign affairs. 

Before joining The Week, he worked as a freelance journalist covering the UK and Ireland for German newspapers and magazines. A series of features on Brexit and the Irish border got him nominated for the Hostwriter Prize in 2019. Prior to settling down in London, he lived and worked in Cambodia, where he ran communications for a non-governmental organisation and worked as a journalist covering Southeast Asia. He has a master’s degree in journalism from City, University of London, and before that studied English Literature at the University of Manchester.