Following the resignation of David Davis, Brexiteers and Remainers alike have been left wondering how Brexit is going, and more importantly, who is really in charge of the negotiations with the EU. Today they got their chance to find out, as new Brexit secretary Dominic Raab and Number 10’s widely-loathed Brexit guru Olly Robbins were grilled by the Exiting the European Union select committee.
Only things soon took a turn for the dramatic when mid session the government published a statement from the Prime Minister announcing that she will now ‘lead the negotiations with the European Union’ and Dominic Raab's department will be stripped of its role in the negotiations with that duty being entirely shifted to the Cabinet Office's Europe unit.
Here's Mr S's round-up of the best barbs from the session
MP John Whittingdale read out loud the Prime Minister’s statement from today which said that 'the Europe Unit will have overall responsibility for the preparation and conduct of the negotiations, drawing upon support from DExEU and other departments'.
And then facetiously advised:
'Does that not rather suggest that the two of you should swap places because in actual fact you [Olly Robbins] are the Secretary of State and you’re being supported by your official sitting next to you.'
2. Olly Robbins' coup d’etat
Brexiteer Craig Mackinlay accused Olly Robbins of overthrowing the authority of the Brexit department:
'I feel over the last few months, I’ve been misled because quietly somewhere, there was a coup d’etat going on between either the proper DeXEU department or the Europe department at the cabinet office.'
3. The Moggster turns on May
Jacob Rees-Mogg took the opportunity to interrogate Robbins over David Davis's claim that he was sidelined and kept out of the loop with regards to her Brexit Chequers' plan. Robbins insisted he worked closely with DexEU. In the end, it seemed as though Rees-Mogg had decided May was the real problem:
4. Raab's red sea gaffe
Meanwhile Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab had his own struggles to contend with, as he made the mixed up the Irish and Red Seas:
'We’ve made clear and I made clear in the House again earlier that we would do nothing that would draw a customs border down the Red Sea.'
He later reassured the committee that he would not be drawing borders across any seas if possible.
5. The 'downgrading' of Raab's department
Even the Remain MPs couldn't resist the opportunity to chide Raab about DexEU's diminished role. Referring to Theresa May’s statement today which reduced the role of DeXEU, Seema Malhotra took her claws out to ask:
Does it seem a little odd to you though that [the Prime Minister’s] statement is put out downgrading your department five minutes before you give evidence to our committee?