Theresa May is on a tour of European capitals today, while Olly Robbins was spotted back in Brussels yesterday. But it isn’t Robbins who May should have sent to Brussels but Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general.
May’s problem right now isn’t technical but parliamentary, how to get the withdrawal deal through the Commons. It isn’t reasonable, or even fair, to expect a civil servant—which is what Robbins is—to have a finger-tip feel for what language or phrase might reassure Tory MPs. Cox, having held dozens of meetings with Ministers and MPs to discuss their concerns about the backstop, is far better placed to do that.
Sending a Brexiteer minister to Brussels would also deal with the concern of many Tory MPs that May simply hasn’t tried hard enough to wrest concessions out of the EU. Cox would be able to report back to the House on what is and isn’t possible, which might change some minds.
Having Cox there would also provide someone who would be capable of drafting legal text. One of the many things that has put the UK on the backfoot in these negotiations is that it’s consistently the EU that is drafting the legal text the two sides are working off.