Given the fragile egos of Theresa May’s three Brexiteers — Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and David Davis — Mr S suspects it’s for the best that none of them were present at today’s press gallery lunch with Nick Clegg. After accusing David Cameron of engaging ‘in a brutal act of one upmanship’ by quitting as the MP for Witney on the same night as his book launch, Clegg went on to launch an attack on the government — focussing on Liam Fox.
While Clegg refused to comment on what Cameron really made of May, he was happy to share his thoughts on the Secretary for International Trade. The former deputy Prime Minister said he felt pity for Fox. The reason? He doesn’t have a job. While it may seem as though Fox has been given an important brief by May, Clegg claims it is a charade that will end in disaster:
‘I’ll just say a word about Liam Fox though because I do feel sorry for him. I’m not a betting man but if I was I’d put a fair amount of money on Liam Fox resigning in a huff in the next 18 months and I’ll explain to you why. He doesn’t have a job and he doesn’t appear to have realised that yet.
He genuinely doesn’t have a job. If the United Kingdom doesn’t leave the customs union then he is heading a department without purpose because he cannot negotiate all these apparently magnificent trade deals with Papua New Guinea and Tanzania. Only 15 per cent of British trade goes to countries outside the EU.’
Clegg went on to claim that even if the government does quit the customs union, he will have little to do:
‘So the poor chap — if the government decide not to quit the customs union — it really will be a little embarrassing. But even if they decide to quit the customs union, he still doesn’t have anything.
However he is a proud man. His colleagues already have started by establishing Change Britain and this will start developing this betrayal myth — it will always be someone else’s fault that Brexit hasn’t happened by next June. They’ll get increasingly agitated and Fox will have to decide “do I sit here and become a laughing stock or do I join my spiritual fellow travellers and say I was also betrayed” — and he’ll do that.’
While Mr S is sure Fox is more than capable of standing up for himself, Steerpike suspects that Clegg is being somewhat unfair. After all, one of the many reasons the nation voted for Brexit was to expand trade horizons outside of the EU.