- Jack Taylor / Stringer
- David Davis has reportedly been sidelined in Brexit talks by a former aide.
- The prime minister Theresa May now increasingly relies on Davis’s former permanent secretary to lead negotiations.
- Official figures show Oliver Robbins has attended 18 days of talks with Davis attending just four.
- A spokesperson for the Brexit secretary describes the reports as “willfully inaccurate.”
LONDON – David Davis has been sidelined in Brexit negotiations, with Theresa May increasingly relying on a former aide to the Brexit Secretary to lead talks instead.
The Times reports that Oliver Robbins, the former permanent secretary to Davis, is now effectively running negotiations, with his former boss only taking a limited role.
Robbins left the Department for Exiting the European Union earlier this year in order to head up a new Brexit unit in the Cabinet office reporting directly to the prime minister.
The move was seen as an attempt by May to wrest control of negotiations from Davis.
The Brexit Secretary officially leads Britain’s negotiations against EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier.
However the Times reports that Robbins has instead held a number of face-to-face meetings with Barnier, with Davis taking a step back.
According to the paper official figures show that between July and September Mr Davis visited Brussels for just four days compared to the 18 days Mr Robbins spent in talks.
Davis under fire
- REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
The Brexit secretary has been heavily criticised for his approach to the negotiations, with the former chief of the Leave campaign, Dominic Cummings, describing him as “thick as mince” and “as lazy as a toad”.
A former aide to Davis, James Chapman, also accused the Brexit secretary of laziness, accusing his former boss of working just three days a week.
A spokesperson for the European Commission also complained in October that negotiations had been held up due to Davis and his team being unavailable for talks.
“Our teams are available 24/7 and I would say that the timing of talks depends on the availability of the UK partners,” the spokesperson said.
A spokesperson for the Department for Exiting the European Union today denied that Davis had been sidelined, describing the reports as “wholly and willfully inaccurate”.
However, they did not deny that Robbins had held talks with Barnier in Davis’s absence.