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Digby Jones should be on the Brexit negotiating team

Ah yes, our top Brexit negotiating team… Sack Boris! Sack Spreadsheet Phil! Don’t bother sacking Theresa because she’s already had the real P45 from her colleagues as well as the joke one from the prankster; she just hasn’t been asked to leave the building yet. That leaves David Davis as the last man standing but there’ll be clamour for him to go too if deadlock persists, as seems likely despite this week’s talk of ‘acceleration’. So who should we send to the table next?

Last week I had the fun of chairing an audience with (Lord) Digby Jones, the irrepressible former CBI chief and trade minister, whose latest book Fixing Business recalls that he was ‘thrilled’ by the referendum result in June last year. I asked him whether he still felt the same 15 months later, provoking a tirade about ‘Michel Barnier’s €60 billion exit bill’ and why we shouldn’t pay it because most of it represents pension liabilities for useless eurocrats.

‘We should offer them €20 billion,’ he plunged on, ‘because that’s roughly what we really owe ’em, and we should tell ’em, “We’ll pay the other €40 billion but not to you, mate, because you’ll just waste it. We’ll spend it on skills training for unemployed young people across Europe that’ll transform your economy.”’ It struck me as a bold idea and it was followed by a fusillade of sallies, gags and patriotic oaths which I eventually had to interrupt — but not before it occurred to me that Digby is the true believer we need in Brussels, barnstorming Barnier until he begs for mercy.


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