The Brexit negotiations begin in five days time. The team in the Department for Exiting the European Union – David Davis, George Bridges, David Jones and Robin Walker – have had to create a department, draft a policy and build diplomatic relations from scratch, both with politicians in other countries and those in the devolved administrations. The team was balanced in terms of attitudes to the EU: Bridges was a Remainer, Jones a Leaver.
Over the weekend, Bridges resigned. Over at the Spectator, James Forsyth hints that one of the reasons is that he Lords Minister had found it impossible to work with Number Ten. And now Jones has suddenly been fired. Joyce Anelay is Bridges’ replacement.
Today’s papers are bristling with stories of Cabinet-level plots to water down the manifesto position on Brexit and keep Britain as a Single Market member and in the customs union. Christopher Howarth writes about the matter on this site today, and the position on leaving more broadly. He points out in passing that George Osborne is instrumental in this push for change.
One does not have to be a partisan one way or another to grasp an important point. The Prime Minister had better have a good reason for firing a man she appointed less than a year ago. And she and the Chief Whip should be very careful about his replacement.
At Cabinet level, the reshuffle was handed skilfully (with the exception of returning Patrick McLoughlin to a CCHQ that is crying out for change). May cannot afford to bungle its second stage today.