Time is running out for the United Kingdom to seal a Brexit deal with the European Union. This is why British Prime Minister Theresa May announced on July 24 that she will personally take control of the negotiations.
“I will lead the negotiations with the European Union, with the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union deputising on my behalf,” May told the parliament.
Overall responsibility for the talks is being moved to the Cabinet Office, the ministry which supports May and where her main Brexit advisor, civil servant Olly Robbins, is based.
As reported by the Agence France-Presse (AFP), the ministry led by Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, ostensibly the public face of the negotiations, will instead focus on domestic preparations for Brexit, including the risk of reaching no deal.
Raab, who only took over on July 9 after his predecessor David Davis quit in protest at May’s plan for close economic ties with the EU, denied he had been demoted.
He noted he met EU negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels last week, would see him again this Thursday and intended to make regular visits over the summer.
Raab told a committee of MPs that May’s statement simply confirmed that there is “one team, one change of command”.
Earlier on July 24, Raab presented to parliament a policy paper outlining the elements of the divorce deal agreed so far with the EU, which will eventually be turned into law.
The main sticking point in the negotiations is about border checks between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland after Brexit.
While May hopes to resolve the issue by continuing a close economic relationship with the EU, this has provoked fury in May’s Conservative party. This is the issue that resulted in the resignations of Davis and foreign minister Boris Johnson earlier this month.
In a separate report, The Guardian noted quoted Jenny Chapman, the shadow Brexit minister, as saying: “Dominic Raab has been side-lined by the prime minister before he has even had the chance to get his feet under the table”.