Dominic Raab profile: Ardent Brexiteer trusted by Tory MPs
New Brexit secretary’s biggest challenge will be to persuade EU to accept May’s latest plan
Dominic Raab, who has been appointed Brexit secretary by Theresa May after the resignation of David Davis. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
David Davis has always claimed his training as an SAS reservist helped him in Brexit negotiations. If being a skilled fighter is a prerequisite for one of the toughest jobs in politics, then in his replacement Theresa May has found her man.
Dominic Raab, the new Brexit secretary, has a black belt in karate. Davis, when shadow home secretary, was said to have been so impressed that he made the former lawyer and Foreign Office diplomat his chief of staff.
It was seen as quite a coup. “Dom is a class act. He’s very calm, very diligent, very thoughtful,” says a Tory insider. “DD really respected him. He was a high flier before he came into politics and he brought that professionalism with him.”
Although he’s an ardent Brexiteer, Raab’s appointment is less divisive than the alternatives. Febrile pro-Brexit MPs are sated, at least temporarily, by having one of their own – a clever, independent-minded one at that – running the show. “Dom is a good thing,” says one. “He’ll hold the prime minister to her promises.”
The remainer wing of the party also seem content for now, although some MPs openly question how much power over the process Raab will be able to prise from the steely grip of Downing Street. He is a close friend of leading Tory rebel Dominic Grieve, for whom he was chief of staff before entering parliament in 2010. One remain MP says: “He’s a believer, but we can work with him.”
Raab was promoted by David Cameron in 2015, to the Ministry of Justice, but found himself out of a job just a year later when Theresa May took over. There were suggestions that despite Raab being tipped for the top, the prime minister had not forgotten his constant challenges over civil liberties from the backbenches.
There was also a “sexism” controversy in the shadows, after he suggested that “‘soft’ feminist bigotry” had become such a problem that it was time “men started burning their briefs”. That assertion drew a stinging rebuke from May, then home secretary.
After the 2017 election, that grudge, if it ever existed, was forgiven and he was reappointed to the Ministry of Justice, where he skilfully guided the article 50 legislation through the House of Commons. A few months later he was moved again, this time to housing, a key issue for the prime minister. Friends, however, said he was disappointed to be away from the Brexit frontline.
Raab’s biggest challenge is to persuade Brussels to accept May’s new Brexit plan. He cut his teeth in the late 1990s working for one of the principal Palestinian negotiators of the Oslo peace accords. “He’s very courteous and will always listen to different sides of the argument,” a former colleague says. Raab himself has said: “Whatever people’s views, if they’re honestly held, I’ve got time for them.” – Guardian