Even David Davis’s loudest critics would concede one thing about the Brexit secretary: he is nothing if not breezily confident. His performance on the media rounds this morning was no exception; and his message following Theresa May’s now-famously frosty Downing Street dinner with Jean-Claude Juncker could not have been clearer: keep calm and carry on – there’s nothing to worry about.
Davis dismissed talk in the papers this morning that Theresa May will be sidelined by other EU leaders when thrashing out the terms of the Brexit deal. Instead, the Brexit secretary said that the PM will be front and centre of talks. Davis was also quick to dismiss discussion of just what unfolded over the Downing Street dinner table as a ‘mixture of gossip and spin’, going on to say that the last week had shown ‘there is an exercise in trying to shape peoples’ opinions’. Beneath Davis’ confidence there was a sign that things are tough going. Here’s what he said on the Today programme:
‘This is all the preliminary to the negotiation itself, and before we even got into this, I did say about a dozen times, look there is going to be some tough times in these negotiations, there are going to be times where you have got to hold your nerve and deal with it equitably.’
But these inklings of worry were few and far between. He said that recent events had not dented his confidence in securing a Brexit deal, insisting that the aim was still to ‘get an agreement’. One of the sticking points in doing just that will be the question of money. On Good Morning Britain, Davis shot down the suggestion Britain would fork out €100bn for its Brexit divorce bill. Yet there was more to this than a flat refusal to pay up. Instead, Davis made it clear that the UK would play – and pay – by the rules, saying that Britain ‘will take our responsibilities seriously’.
To his credit, the Brexit secretary has refused to take the bait from Brussels. This is commendable and shows that the government is doing its best to stick to the pledge it made yesterday not to get into a briefing war with the EU. Davis, for all his faults, is taking a grown-up approach to Brexit. Can the same be said for those on the other side of the table?