In Brief

Who is in charge of Brexit?

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab bumped to ‘deputising’ role as Theresa May says she will ‘lead negotiations’ with EU

Theresa May has announced that she will take personal control of Brexit talks with EU negotiators, as the deadline to Britain’s exit from the bloc draws nearer.

The prime minister told Parliament yesterday that overall responsibility for the negotiations is being moved to the Cabinet Office - where a dedicated team reporting directly to May has “played an increasing role in Brexit talks during recent months”, says the BBC.

The Europe Unit, led by senior civil servant Olly Robbins, will have “overall responsibility for the preparation and conduct of the negotiations”, the PM said in her written statement to ministers.

Her announcement has raised questions about the role and status of Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and his department, which will be left in charge of domestic preparations, such as planning for a no-deal scenario and the legislation needed for Brexit. 

“I will lead the negotiations with the European Union, with the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [Raab] deputising on my behalf,” May said.

Raab only took up the role on 9 July, after his predecessor David Davis quit in protest at May’s plan for close economic ties with the EU. The new Brexit secretary yesterday denied claims that he has been demoted, insisting that it was simply a “change of command”, AFP reports.

The Paris-based news agency says that a “shift in responsibility has been under way for months, as Davis was increasingly sidelined by Robbins before he quit, in what one Eurosceptic MP suggested on Tuesday was a ‘coup d’etat’”.

May’s “power grab” is “confirmation that she has now taken complete control over the process” alongside Robbins, Politico adds, an outcome that is “likely to add fuel to accusations that she is moving further away from the Brexiteers in her party who felt reassured by Raab’s appointment”.

“It will now fall to No. 10 Downing Street and Robbins’ Europe Unit to lead the negotiations with Brussels,” the news site says.

Richard Tice, of campaign group Leave Means Leave, said the development was “absolutely devastating news to the 17.4 million people that voted to leave the EU as we now look set for Brexit In Name Only”.

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