David Davis has broken his silence on his resignation. Unsurprisingly his comments on the Today programme are devastating for Theresa May’s Brexit strategy. The now-departed Brexit secretary said his position was no longer tenable because he simply didn’t believe in the PM’s approach. In his resignation letter last night, he had said that ‘that the national interest requires a Secretary of State in my Department that is an enthusiastic believer in the approach, and not merely a reluctant conscript’. He went further on the Today programme, calling the PM’s approach a ‘dangerous strategy’.
What is worrying for May is not only that Davis himself couldn’t get behind May’s approach but also that he likely spoke for many Brexiteers in voicing his fears that the plan set out at Chequers will be watered down by further concessions demanded by Brussels. Davis said:
‘I chose one approach, she proposed another which was more conciliatory to the European Union – I think that’s the best way to put it – and she believes that will deliver a better response from them. My fear is that they will take what we have offered already and then demand some more. That has been their practice for the last year and I fear, in fact, this is just the start.’
Whatever you might think of Davis, it’s difficult not to say that he doesn’t have a point here: the approach of the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has been to do exactly this – call for the UK to offer concessions whenever a plan is put forward by the British government. There is little to suggest this won’t change now. And even if this doesn’t happen, Davis again spoke for a considerable number on the Tory backbenches when he said:
‘I think this is further than we should have gone already.’
So can May survive? Davis himself that he wasn’t attempting to bring down the PM. He insisted that he liked May and that she makes a ‘good Prime Minister’ (even if he did say that if he’d wanted to bring May down he would have done so after last year’s botched election).
Of course, much now depends on the coming hours. Davis painted himself as something of a lone voice in sticking to his discontentment at the PM’s Chequers plan. If that is indeed the case, the PM is on slightly firmer ground. But if others in the Cabinet are tempted to change their mind in the wake of Davis’s resignation overnight, things could quickly become very dangerous for May.