Brexit crisis tearing apart UK’s Conservative Party
22 July 2017
This week’s talks on the terms of Britain leaving the European Union largely proceeded in the absence of one of the key negotiators.
Brexit Minister David Davis met for one hour with the EU negotiator Michael Barnier Monday, before flying back to the UK and then returning for a brief discussion and joint press conference Thursday.
At the conference, Barnier condemned Davis for a “lack of clarity” on the UK position on key issues—above all the so-called “divorce settlement” and the future status of EU nationals. Clarification is “indispensable,” Barnier declared, while Davis spoke of “robust” discussions and compromise on both sides. Barnier replied that the EU is not in a game of making concessions.
Davis could do little but stall, because he represents a government that is in the middle of bitter factional infighting over Brexit. Indeed, the leading Brexiteer went back to the UK to hear Prime Minister Theresa May warn against briefing and leaks against cabinet colleagues by their factional opponents.
Since her disastrous political miscalculation in calling June’s snap general election, the vultures have been circling over May—who is almost certain to face a leadership challenge in the autumn. The delay in deposing her is in large part due to concern that a precipitous move might hasten a fresh general election, amid warnings that Labour might win it. However, it is Brexit that underpins the political paralysis of the government.
The days leading up to the latest round of negotiations saw leaks against Chancellor Philip Hammond—that he had called public sector workers “overpaid” and made sexist comments at a function. The feigned outrage was motivated by…