With less than a week to the start of negotiations, the UK’s Brexit team appear more ill prepared than ever to handle the task. News of ministerial casualties within the Brexit department has been dismissed as minor. Meanwhile, replacements are shuffled into the department in the dead of night, hoping to avoid the attention of the media. It seems it is not just the electorate that harbour grave doubts about the forthcoming negotiations.
It has been announced this week that David Jones responsible for the Welsh arm of the Leave campaign has been sacked and replaced. Meanwhile, Lord Bridges, in charge of pushing through the various Brexit bills in parliament has resigned. Bridges has stated that he is simply unwilling to work in such disarray, despite promises of a shift in management style and improvements in inter-departmental communication.
Incredibly, David Davis, the most senior minister within the Brexit team, was not made aware of the sackings. Yet, Davis appears in public to be unperturbed by this latest disruption and continues to exude an air of confidence and calm. This, despite only days before formal negotiations begin and with an EU negotiating team that have every aspect of their initial position meticulously prepared.
Meanwhile, Barnier has now gone public regarding his concerns over the UK’s readiness to begin discussions. Fears over the United Kingdom crashing out of the EU without a deal due to their lack of readiness and a clear negotiating strategy are becoming a source of EU anxiety. Furthermore, a substantial gulf in the UK’s credibility is opening up with European heads of government. It is clear Theresa May’s mandate at home hangs by a thread. The Conservative 1922 Committee have issued only a tempory stay of execution.
Until now the cabinet has had only the UK news media to navigate. Leaks have been a constant irritation, but arguably not a train crash. From next week the news agenda will be firmly driven by the EU. Expect regular daily briefings that will make uncomfortable reading for the Conservative government. Every misquoted figure, each misunderstood legal precedent together with all of the poorly constructed documents and lack of professionalism, painstakingly recreated in the European press for daily consumption and entertainment.
Within the context of our ill-conceived race to leave the EU, our taste of Brexit chaos has barely broken a sweat. The Brexit marathon will be long, painful and with little to celebrate. If we fail to cross the finishing line the UK will be in need of some serious resuscitation.