In continuation of Brexit pains, earlier in October there were reports that Brexit Secretary David Davis has been planning to retire after the Brexit negotiations are over. The reports went on to suggest that the MP would then run for Prime Minister. Newspapers like The Telegraph attributed the source of this information to ‘friends’ of David Davis. He is also reported to have told friends that Michel Barnier, who is chief negotiator for the EU, needs the Brexit negotiations to work more than he does.

When asked whether he would be retiring in June 2019, David Davis said “yes” and suggested that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson could deal with the two year transition period after Britain leaves the EU.

Brexit - The Economist
Brexit – The Economist

At the same time, there are rumors of cabinet ministers unhappy with Brexit. Mr Johnson has said that he thinks some EU leaders are under the impression that Britain is reluctant to leave and will cancel the move in the middle of negotiations.

These reports paint a picture of a divided cabinet, and points to a looming cabinet reshuffle in the near future. On the other hand, there is discontent within the party with the leadership of Prime Minister Theresa May, and Mr Davis’ retirement could mean a crisis in leadership.

Is the Cabinet Really Torn Over Brexit?

According to recent reports Mr Davis has said that there is no dissension within the cabinet regarding Brexit. He said the British government has already approved Article 50 unanimously. Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon allows any EU member to leave unilaterally, and gives the exiting country two years to negotiate an exit deal. Once Article 50 has been set into motion, it cannot be reversed without the unanimous decision of all the EU member states.

The Brexit Secretary also cited Prime Minister Theresa May’s September speech in Florence as the government’s decisive view on Brexit.

Britain Votes Brexit
Britain Votes Brexit

However, those who have heard the speech will be under the impression that the Government believes there are more problems than benefits of Brexit. The PM spoke at length about Britain’s shared history with Europe asked EU countries to allow Britain to pause full exit until 2021. In other words, Britain wants to continue to enjoy full access to the single market until then.

Despite the mixed signals, David Davis has said that Brexit is his ‘legacy’ and he doesn’t want to walk away from negotiations. To that end, he is preparing the cabinet for the possibility that Britain won’t be granted a trade agreement for two years after leaving. He is under pressure from some hardline Brexiteers to walk away from the negotiations, but he has withstood these demands so far.

Potential Leadership Crisis

If the Brexit Secretary leaves amid the potential impeachment of the Prime Minister, there will be a lack of leadership in Britain at a demanding time. He has been asked by allies to take interim power before a suitable Prime Ministerial candidate can be found. He has suggested Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson as the man to take charge in the interim.

Brexit Secretary David Davis
Brexit Secretary David Davis

The reports of David Davis retiring comes right in the heels of the anger generated by Boris Johnson’s 4000-word article criticizing Brexit was published in the Daily Telegraph. This article was seen as a challenge to the leadership of the PM and the Foreign Secretary was accused of backseat-driving the exit. The Foreign Secretary maintains that his article pushed the Government into supporting a two-year transition instead of the original five-year plan. However, David Davis claims that the article had no influence on the Government plans for Brexit.

Where Britain Stands Now

David Davis is now urging the Cabinet to have an insurance policy in place in case the Brexit negotiations fall through. The Prime Minister has said that she prefers a trade agreement, and others such as the Home Secretary Amber Rudd say a ‘no deal’ Brexit is unthinkable. It is highly likely that Britain will trade on the terms of the World Trade Organization after Brexit.

But the Brexit Secretary wants to leave the EU on good terms, and continues his negotiations. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson is a likely candidate for PM, and is considered a relatable figure despite his love of long words and floral jogging shorts.