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Theresa May’s Brexit plan hangs in the balance as David Davis resigns

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The Brexit secretary, David Davis, has resigned.

He has been replaced by incumbent housing minister, Dominic Raab.

However, in perhaps the most curious part of the story to date, Davis claimed that he did not want his departure to weaken the Prime Minister, Theresa May.

Yet, in the short-term at least, that is precisely what he has done. Not because his absence will fundamentally impact on the Brexit negotiations themselves.

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After all, David Davis has only met Michel Barnier for formal talks on four occasions. And all the indications are that it was really the Prime Minister’s adviser, Olly Robbins, who was driving the negotiation process.

The real issue created by the resignation is party political. David Davis played a crucial role in the management of a profoundly divided Conservative Party.

As the long-term and principled eurosceptic he was known to be, his presence in the Cabinet Office served to reassure pro-Brexit Conservatives that the process was broadly on track.

Davis, in other words, was one of the few who could keep the European Research Group onside. Now that has all changed.

Within hours of his departure, Brexiteers were queuing up to question how Brexit is being handled and even the position of the prime minister.

And this also applies to the other wing of her parliamentary party. Much was made of the fact the prime minister managed, at Chequers on Friday, to gain the support of Cabinet Brexiteers for her new Brexit plan – albeit fleetingly.

Equally importantly, her new plan seemed to have drawn the sting from potential rebels on the ‘soft’ Brexit side of the party.

With votes on the Trade Bill due next week, including on an amendment instructing the government to agree some kind of customs union with the EU, this was every bit as important as keeping the Brexiteers onside.

Now, both sides scent the opportunity to push the government in their preferred direction. Reconciling them both will be the devil’s own task.


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