In her 2016 Conservative party leadership speech, Theresa May said this:
“I will create a new government department responsible for conducting Britain’s negotiation with the EU and for supporting the rest of Whitehall in its European work. That department will be led by a senior Secretary of State – and I will make sure that the position is taken by a Member of Parliament who campaigned for Britain to leave the EU.”
Her first appointment as Brexit Secretary was the Brexiteer David Davis. When earlier this month he resigned from the government over Mrs May’s Chequers betrayal, Davis made the explosive claim that he and his department had been sidelined and then shafted over the formulation of the UK’s negotiating position with the EU.
He described how he and his team had been working on what they thought was to be the Brexit white paper, in accordance with the promises and undertakings previously set by Mrs May, only for him be be presented at Chequers with a proposal that tore up those promises and undertakings.
His deputy, Steve Baker, spelled this out when interviewed by Jo Coburn on BBC TV’s Daily Politics:
Baker: I don’t think it’s too indiscreet to point out that what has happened here is that we’ve all been blindsided by this policy. You know we were preparing a white paper which did not accord with what has been put to the Cabinet, Chequers. The white paper we were working on reflected the series of speeches which the Prime Minister made and as has been said this is a significant evolution from those speeches. So you know things have changed considerably this week, and they’ve changed considerably in a way which I will not be able to represent as my own policy; and therefore I can’t be in the government.
Coburn: So were you out of the loop as your department was basically marginalised in this process?
Baker: Yeah there’s no getting around it, yes, I mean the Secretary of State and I have resigned for reasons and these are amongst the reasons.
True to her word, Mrs May replaced Davis with another Brexiteer, Dominic Raab. What she never said, however, was that she would remove the Brexit Secretary and his entire government department from their responsibility “for conducting Britain’s negotiation with the EU” altogether.
Today, as MPs were departing for the summer recess, this demarche became public. In a written statement, Mrs May announced that she herself would lead the negotiations with the EU. The Cabinet Office Europe Unit, headed by arch-Remainer official Olly Robbins, would henceforth have “overall responsibility for the preparation and conduct of the negotiations”. Raab’s Department for Exiting the EU would merely “lead on all of the Government’s preparations for Brexit”.
At the Commons Brexit committee today, Robbins was asked whether he had indeed drafted a parallel Brexit white paper in secret. He was reported as saying “he does not accept this. He says what happened was routine for this sort of operation.”
As for Raab, he was reported as maintaining with a straight face that “Theresa May has always been in overall charge of the negotiations. He says he deputises for her. These changes are about ensuring there is a unified chain of command”.
These protestations won’t wash. The fact that Davis and Baker had previously been sidelined and blindsided does not alter the significance of what has now occurred. The second Brexit-busting shoe has dropped. Raab should never have accepted this poisoned Chequers chalice in the first place and has now been humiliated. The ministerial organ grinder has been replaced by the civil servant monkey. “Sir Humphrey” is now the de facto Secretary of State. It’s not just a Remainer coup but a Whitehall coup.
Britain’s “exit” from the EU is now to be handled by a Remainer Prime Minster and a Remainer mandarin who is already widely credited with putting the policy pieces in place for the betrayal of Brexit and the British people.
Mrs May should never have been elected party leader, should not have remained Prime Minister after she mucked up the last election and should never have been allowed anywhere near the EU negotiations. But here she still is, and becoming more devious and dictatorial by the day.
She is reportedly planning a summer charm offensive round the country to persuade the public that she will keep faith with them and deliver Brexit. The people need to tell the Prime Minister loud and clear that they simply don’t believe her, that her credibility is shot to pieces, that they will no longer be treated as fools and that, unless the government delivers Brexit in deed as well as word, not just she but the Conservative party itself will be finished for ever.
The people voted for their democratic freedom to govern themselves. Now they need to fight desperately for that freedom against those whose plans to destroy it, and betray the people, are about to reach their Machiavellian crescendo.