David Davis had left DexEU – and taken most of his colleagues with him. Steve Baker – junior minister– at the Brexit department has resigned and there are rumours Suella Braverman could also quit.
So, with a growing Brexit rebellion brewing, Theresa May’s next move is pivotal. Who will replace Davis?
- No-one: The department for Exiting the European Union has been repeatedly sidelined by No 10. There’s a chance that Theresa May will respond by merging that department into another – the Cabinet Office or the Foreign Office. However, the optics of closing the Department for Brexit at a time when critics say the Brexit dream has died would not be so great for the beleaguered PM.
- Michael Gove: The husky-hugging tree-loving Defra secretary put in a pre-emptive audition on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday bigging up May’s compromise Brexit pitch. The Vote Leave campaigner admitted it wasn’t perfect but said everyone needed to compromise. Would he risk a Brexit backlash in exchange for a plum job? His appointment would be the savviest move for No 10.
- David Lidington: A safe pair of hands and May’s de facto deputy in all but name. But given Lidington’s Remain background, it would hardly help to win any dissenting Brexiteers round to know he was in charge.
- Liam Fox: the most loyal of Theresa May’s Brexiteers, Fox would likely jump at the chance for promotion. What’s more it would help flesh out his job a bit given that the Department for International Trade may be low on tasks if comprehensive free trade deals are off the menu. However, while Fox is an ardent Brexiteer on paper, he is regarded in Tory leave circles as a careerist before else. This would not help shake that view.
- Chris Grayling: Another member of the ever-decreasing loyal Brexiteers to Theresa May club. However, he is seen as uninspiring and there was a backlash before when May considered appointing him party chairman. Then again, trains don’t seem to be his thing so maybe he needs a change.
- Dominic Raab: Continually overlooked for promotion, is this Raab’s chance? A committed Brexiteer – this would be a gamble to his credibility and potential leadership ambitions.
- William Hague: Would Theresa May try once again to bring Hague back? The Tory peer has of late been calling for Brexiteers to learn to compromise or face a softer Brexit still at the hands of the Commons. This could be his chance to lead by example.
- Boris Johnson: Given that the Foreign Secretary likened May’s plan to ‘polishing a turd’, he seems an unlikely choice to fly the flag for the policy. But desperate times and all that.
- Suella Braverman: Despite initial reports that she had resigned too, Braverman – a former ERG chair – has been pictured with No 10’s Robbie Gibb this morning. Has she spied a chance for promotion?
- Olly Robbins: The controversial civil servant is the enemy of most Brexiteers. Yet May appears enchanted. Perhaps she could just go all out, give him a peerage and then the title of the job he has in all but name.
- Gareth Southgate: Unlike the other contenders, the England manager appears to be on a winning streak – perhaps he could switch to the other national team? Only problem is by the time he’s back, there may not be a government to join.