“These decisions are very hard to make – they have career ending consequences.” So said the until-recently-brexit secretary David Davis to Today presenter John Humphrys, eight and a half hours after he resigned from his post.
Davis lamented that the government was for some inexplicable reason accepting “a common rule book that means the EU writes the rules for us in effect”.
Worse still, that newly discovered EU land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic could cause problems for the Great Brexit Utopia. “That’s a devil of a sword of Damocles to hang over parliament,” Davis lamented.
Who could have seen these problems coming? Not David Davis, certainly….
4 Feb 2016: CEOs will demand trade deals “within minutes” of Brexit
(3/4) Within minutes of a vote for #Brexit CEO’s would be knocking down Chancellor Merkel’s door. Demanding access to the British market
— David Davis (@DavidDavisMP) February 4, 2016
In the heady days of the EU referendum campaign, the then-backbencher gave a speech in which he reassured dithering voters that “we are too valuable a market for Europe to shut off”:
“Within minutes of a vote for Brexit the CEO’s of Mercedes, BMW, VW and Audi will be knocking down Chancellor Merkel’s door demanding that there be no barriers to German access to the British market.”
Anyway, who cares about CEOs? For Davis also predicted that Britain would be already trading with new, exciting partners by 24 June 2018:
“That means immediately seeking Free Trade Agreements with the biggest prospective markets as fast as possible. There is no reason why many of these cannot be achieved within two years.”
These deals included borrowing the “almost complete” Canada-EU deal, Ceta, and the TTIP deal with the US.
Two weeks after Davis’s deadline, Ceta is still bogged down in wrangling, and TTIP is dead in the water.
14 July 2016: Britain will outdo the EU in 12 months
Shortly after being appointed brexit secretary, Davis showed he wasn’t intimidated by his new job. “Be under no doubt: we can do deals with our trading partners, and we can do them quickly,” he declared.
The negotiation phase of most of these deals, he added breezily, would most likely be concluded “within between 12 and 24 months” and would comprise a free trade area “massively larger than the EU”, most likely including Hong Kong, Canada, Australia, India, Japan, the UAE, Indonesia – “and many others”.
7 December 2016: Brexit is sew easy
Davis characterised Brexit as one of those menial tasks suitable for housewives, and well below the pay grade of a male Brexiteer, so long as his fellow MPs could stop bothering him already.
“It is like threading the eye of a needle,” he said. “If you have a good eye and a steady hand, it is easy enough, but if somebody jogs your elbow, it is harder.”
27 June 2017: Harder than a moon landing, but…
One year after Brexit, Davis displayed a rare flicker of doubt about the whole thing, describing elements of his job as harder than a Nasa moon landing. Obviously he wasn’t quite himself, because he was soon back in the starship and…
11 December 2017: Anyone calm can do it
…after 12 months of unsuccessfully threading needles, Davis told LBC radio it was still a simple enough task. “What’s the requirement of my job? I don’t have to be very clever, I don’t have to know that much, I do just have to be calm,” he said.
1 January 2018: The best Brexit
In an article for the Telegraph entitled “How we will deliver the best Brexit in 2018,” Davis insisted “agreement by March [on EU guidelines] is doable”, and that the British approach was “simple”.
8 July 2018: The spaceship crashes
Davis pens a resignation letter saying he had supported the government’s Brexit policy on the grounds that it was still possible to leave the customs union and the single market but this now looked “less and less likely”.
In future he will spend more time with his darning.