But listen in on events at Conservative Party conference and you wouldn't know itby Alex Dean / October 2, 2017 / Leave a comment
“Theresa May and David Davis have provided a case study of grotesque uselessness” in their approach to Brexit.
This comment, made exclusively to Prospect, comes from Vote Leave mastermind Dominic Cummings. The government is frequently accused of bungling negotiations with Europe, but rarely in such strong terms—and almost never by such a senior Brexit insider. That it comes during conference season only worsens the blow.
The comments are sure to rile an already under-siege administration—and there were plenty more of them from the former Vote Leave Director. The impression I was left with was that Britain may well crash out of Europe with no deal—whatever the PM’s plans for a smooth transition. “It was crazy to trigger Article 50 without preparations first and even more crazy to sit around and still not prepare,” Cummings said. “If there’s no deal there will be significant problems that were completely avoidable.”
His intervention could hardly be more urgent: six months have passed since A50 was triggered but Britain and Europe have reached agreements on almost nothing. The PM’s Florence speech was a step in the right direction—but the EU was quick to counter that massive policy gaps still remain. The government, currently in all out war, looks unlikely to close them anytime soon, and while former Brexit minister David Jones says preparations are underway for a “no deal” outcome, it is difficult to feel reassured when the government will not publish them. So what exactly happens if Britain does fall over the cliff edge? Chaos—or would we manage to muddle through?
At a “Leave means Leave” fringe event at Tory conference in Manchester, in front of a banner which read “No deal is better than a bad deal,” MP for North Shropshire and prominent Brexiteer Owen Paterson was relaxed about the prospect—and offered some advice to the PM. “If the European Union is still messing around by Christmas,” he said, Britain should “give notice, on 1st January, that we will be moving to WTO rules.”
Paterson isn’t alone in his optimism: the room, filled with Tory activists, united in applause at his remark. But chat to the experts and the response is rather different. “A ‘no deal’ outcome—trading on World Trade Organisation terms—would lead to economic chaos because…