Brexit remorse, Leo’s jacket and the wisdom of David Davis
Planet Brexit: the week in Britain’s economic self-sabotage
Leo Varadkar puts his jacket on just before entering Number 10 Downing Street, just like Hugh Grant would have done in ‘Love, Actually’. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Image of the week: Brexit, actually
With temperatures soaring above 30 degrees in London, Leo Varadkar wasn’t feeling especially attached to his suit jacket. Alas, tradition dictates that the new boy in class avoids sartorial shortcuts on his first trip to Number 10 Downing Street, so on it went. Inside, the Taoiseach – that still sounds weird – told Theresa May that any Border that exists between the Republic and Northern Ireland after Brexit must be invisible. He said some other stuff too about power-sharing, confidence and supply deals and a film it is tediously compulsory to profess to hate. But it was a busy news day and few in the UK cared: Varadkar did not make the running order on Monday’s BBC News at Ten – although strangely Colm Tóibín did. Onwards.
In numbers: Thinking twice
Percentage of British people who want a referendum on whether to accept the terms of the final Brexit deal, according to pollsters Survation. In April, 54 per cent were against a second referendum.
Percentage who agreed with Theresa May that “no deal is better than a bad deal”. Maybe time to retire the line?
Percentage who said they didn’t want Britain to leave the EU customs union. And they say the British love a queue.
The lexicon: Reste à liquider
Reste à liquider is abbreviated to RAL in EU circles, but to everybody else it is the “divorce bill”, aka the sum of the UK’s outstanding financial commitments. This is the amount that it has already agreed to in past EU budget negotiations, but has not yet translated into payments. It has nothing to do with “punishing” the UK for leaving, as some of the British tabloids have portrayed it. Over in Brussels, the EU team has got its calculators out and the final reckoning is the first item on the agenda for the talks that began this week. Europe compares the principle of reste à liquider to signing a contract with a builder – the commitment is made to do the job, but the construction company is only paid according to the progress of the work. In this case, the bill could be as high as €100 billion.
Getting to know: Sabine Weyand
German trade expert Sabine Weyand co-ordinated a university PhD programme in European integration in the 1990s, but fate and qualifications have brought her to frontline of European disunity. Weyand, who spent a year at Cambridge University in the 1980s and has a PhD in common transport policy, is the number two to Michel Barnier, serving as deputy chief negotiator for the EU’s Brexit negotiations with the UK. The former deputy director-general at the European Commission’s trade department has more than 20 years’ experience in trade relations and was named by website Politico.eu as “one of the women who shape Brussels”. The self-described “avid reader” and “news junkie” will soon be able to read about herself in the news, when she and Barnier tell the UK where to go on trade talks.
The list: The wisdom of David Davis
The UK’s Brexit secretary David Davis is leading its exit talks with the EU, going head-to-head with Barnier. So what has Davis, the man who once campaigned while flanked by two women wearing “It’s DD for me” T-shirts (FFS), got to say for himself? Let’s go inside his mind.
1. On clarity: “The UK has been crystal clear about its approach to the negotiations,” Davis claimed. It has no idea what it’s doing.
2. Late finish: “It’s not how it starts, it’s how it finishes that matters,” was his “it’s how you land, not fall” defence after the EU won “round one” on the timetable for the talks.
3. When the facts change, sir: “If a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy.” Alas, this one, from a speech about the EU, dates from 2012.
4. Hands to the floor: “We are playing for the national interest here,” the Conservative insisted in March. “I’m going to aim as high as conceivably possible.”
5. Future prospects: “I am certainly a determined optimist,” said Davis this week. He might be the last one left.