Despite the right-leaning part of the press talking up their every move - the Mail telling readers “The 'Three Brexiteers' look to be getting on swimmingly after Cabinet meeting” is typical - the troika of David Davis, Liam Fox and Boris Johnson is discovering that its campaign to disengage Britain from the EU is developing not necessarily to its advantage.
The future of your country is in their hands. Seriously
After Davis declared that it was “very improbable” that Britain would remain a member of the Single Market, he was almost immediately slapped down by Theresa May, who insisted “the Brexit Secretary had been 'setting out his view' rather than describing government policy”. She would be “ambitious” in seeking “the best deal possible” for Britain. Davis would have had good reason to resign. He did not.
That demonstrates the weakness of the “Three Brexiteers”: were any or all of Davis, Fox and Johnson to resign, nobody would defend them, far less be sad to see them go, save their pals in the press, and even there the enthusiasm is beginning to wane. It’s going to wane rather more after the second member of the triumvirate, Liam Fox, had a moment of delusion that put Davis’ experience very much in the shade.
The BBC, probably briefed by Fox or someone in close proximity to him, told “The UK is to begin preliminary talks with Australia about the outline of a future free trade deal between them … Officials will meet twice a year to discuss the parameters of what both sides said they hoped would be an ‘ambitious and comprehensive’ deal … Australia has been earmarked by the UK as its first post-Brexit trade partner … International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and his counterpart Steven Ciobo said they shared a ‘strong political commitment’ to trade liberalisation”. And then came the fall.
Along came the deeply subversive Guardian to inject a little of that inconvenient real world analysis: “No free trade deal until Brexit settled, says Australian minister … Steven Ciobo introduces more cautious tone after Canberra previously promoted idea of a bilateral deal when UK leaves EU”. So there isn’t going to be a quick deal.
It gets worse. Ciobo has also reminded Britain of its place in the queue: “He confirmed that Australia would conclude its trade deal with the EU before concluding one with the UK. ‘That’s a consequence of the fact that discussions with the European Union are more advanced than they are with the UK,’ he said”. Compare that to Daniel Hannan’s dishonest claim that “Australia has been talking about trade with the EU for years and getting nowhere”. Those on the Europhobic right sharing in the same delusion.
Fox is talking up deals that are no more than what IT professionals call Vapourware. Johnson is dogged by questions about his past tendency to speak impolitely of those with whom he is now going to have to negotiate. And Davis’ claim that “within two years, before the negotiation with the EU is likely to be complete, and therefore before anything material has changed, we can negotiate a free trade area massively larger than the EU” has been shown to be the stuff of fantasy. “The Three Brexiteers” are a laughing stock.
If only Parliament had a united, focused and credible opposition. Just a thought.