As the Political Scrapbook (PS) site revealed this afternoon, when Brexit Secretary David Davis arrived on 17 July of this year to begin the first round of discussions with EU negotiators he stayed for only an hour before leaving again – to return to London for not one but two meetings with Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre.
According to the department’s paperwork, Davis met Dacre on the afternoon of the 17th and again for dinner the following evening.
The question of the purpose of those meetings is naturally of huge public interest – but so is the question of what he did with the rest of his time.
According to PS, Davis left the meeting by 9am Brussels time on the 17th – which was 8am in London – after meeting EU representatives for only an hour, appeared briefly in a press conference and travelled back to London by Eurostar.
According to the Eurostar website, the journey only takes a little over two hours, so that even allowing for check-in time – which would be minimal for a Cabinet-level minister – he could comfortably have been back in London by noon that day. He was not seen again in Brussels until 20 July, after negotiations had finished.
This raises a number of related, important questions:
- why did Davis leave in time to have arrived back in London fully a day and a half before the likely time of his ‘dinner’ appointment with Dacre?
- what was he doing that was important enough for him to leave after only an hour of discussions with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and his team?
- what did he need to discuss with Dacre that was so important he had to miss the negotiations that are the principal responsibility of his position before they’d really even begun?
Davis eventually reappeared for a press conference, which went badly and led to David facing criticism for being underprepared.
What exactly had he been doing – and why did he have to be doing it right then?
The SKWAWKBOX asked Davis’ DEXEU department why he had to have dinner with Dacre on a day when he should have been in Brussels, as well as what he was doing with that day and a half that he must have had between arriving in London and the dinner meeting. A press spokesperson would only comment:
This was a private engagement, David Davis attended in a personal capacity and was not there to represent the interests of the government.
Which clearly answers none of the pertinent questions.
Davis’ sudden, premature departure and the lengthy period he was gone raise – among unknown others – the possibility of a Brexit Secretary under undue influence from right-wing media, or of one too lazy or focused elsewhere to concentrate on his job of national importance.
The questions have not been answered by DEXEU – but if they were, they might explain a lot about how slow and shoddy the UK’s handling of the negotiation process has been.
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