Whitehall ‘did a cr**ty job’ in leaving EU, says ex-Brexit minister David Davis

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Whitehall ‘did a cr**ty job’ leaving EU: Ex-Brexit minister David Davis denies our talks with Brussels

  • Former Brexit Secretary David Davis slammed Whitehall for doing a ‘crappy’ job
  • Mr Davis also claimed officials ‘sympathize’ with the European vision
  • Former Cabinet ministers also took aim at Theresa May’s handling of Brexit

Whitehall did a “really shitty job” negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union, former Brexit secretary David Davis has said.

He claimed officials ‘sympathized with the European view and assumed it was reciprocated’ – but it was not.

The former Cabinet minister also took aim at Theresa May’s handling of the UK departure, calling her a ‘Remainer trying to complete a Brexit-related deal’.

In an interview with the Institute for Government looking back on his time in government, Mr Davis – who served as Conservative Brexit Secretary from 2016 to 2018 – said: ‘Whitehall has done a really shitty job of negotiating.

‘I mean, really shit. I think it’s partly because they sympathized with the European point of view and assumed it was mutual. This was not the case.

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis has accused Whitehall of doing a ‘really shitty’ job in negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union

“You know, if you think the person across the table is a nice person and you really understand their point of view, there’s a tendency to think they’ll be friendly to you – which is naive from a large scale point of view and also disregards psychology, if you have a negotiation where you come in, you have an antagonism on the other side…and we clearly did, with the French at least.

Mr Davis said then Prime Minister Ms May was a ‘very good person and under different circumstances she would have been a very good Prime Minister’.

He added: “It’s a shame she’s not Prime Minister now because she would have been perfect for now.” It’s not that she can’t deal with crises, she can.

“But the problem was that she was a holdover trying to get a Brexit thing done, and there’s a kind of intuitive understanding that you just can’t get from reading a book.”

Lord Frost, the former chief Brexit negotiator, was also interviewed about his time as Cabinet minister. He left government at the end of 2021 after months of unhappiness over tax hikes, but told the IfG he had by then become a “difficult figure” for the EU.

“I wish, in many ways, that we could continue with Northern Ireland affairs, although I think there is also an argument that I would have become such a difficult figure for some members of the EU by then, that it was better for someone else to come and do it,” he said.

Lord Frost also criticized Penny Mordaunt, who deputized for him in the Commons as Trade Secretary.

He said their relationship ‘never really worked out’ – and he claimed she was ‘very often not there or trying’.