‘Our friends are concerned - and less friendly countries are bemused and astonished - that the great British machine, which is famous for efficiency, now seemed to be all over the place’ said Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform, over the weekend. He was of course talking about the UK government Brexit negotiations where ministers are openly disagreeing about objectives and tactics. What he went on to say was even more critical, adding ‘Britain’s name has never been held in lower regard than now in terms of its competence, its ability to organise, its ability to be strategic and influence anything’.
EU negotiators have said that before the two sides can sit down there would be a price that Britain has to pay to exit the EU. Last week Boris Johnson, the UK’s Foreign Secretary, told the House of Commons that the EU could ‘go whistle’ if it wanted greater sums of money to leave. 48 hours later David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, issued a written statement to the self-same house confirming a payment would be agreed. Hours earlier, the Great Repeal Bill, which is said to be one of the largest legislative projects ever undertaken in the UK, was accidentally published online before it was presented to Parliament.
And according to officials, this keystone cop’s behaviour to the Brexit process does not end there. In March, on the day Article 50 was triggered, David Davis called Timo Soini, Finland’s foreign minister and big critic of the EU. After being told he was speaking to Soini, Davis proudly announced that Brexit had begun, and that the UK looked forward to Finland’s support in the forthcoming talks. After a pause, the voice Davis heard at the other end of the line was not Soini, it was in fact Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator. That was only the second time the pair had spoken since Davis was given the Brexit Secretary job.
As Amyas Morse, the head of the National Audit Office says, the UK government ‘needs to act in a more unified way’ (and professional!) adding ‘what we don’t want to find is that at the first tap, this falls apart like a chocolate orange. It needs to be coming through as uniform, a little more like a cricket ball.’ However, the biggest problem with this idea is, within the EU, Britain is the only nation that plays cricket !!
Oh well … as the famous ’90’s D:Ream anthem went, ‘Things can only get better‘.