Three Brexiteers, One Year to Impact

A year from now we will be standing on the edge. Depending on your point of view this will be a springboard or a precipice, as Britain officially severs its ties with the European Union albeit with a handful of bungee chord caveats to slow the leap.

I think I speak for the nation when I say we are sick to the hind teeth of the protracted Brexit negotiations.  If the Brits excel at one thing, it is talking a topic ’round the houses’  until finally getting on with doing it!

However, as we prepare for the next stage of discussions to move forth, let us pause to reflect on the fortunes of the three Brexiteers who were picked in July 2016 to swashbuckle a post-Brexit vision for Britain.

David Davis seems to have grabbed more headlines for style over substance since becoming Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. The ‘old knuckleduster’ was hailed by Breitbart as an ‘SAS hardman’ on his appointment – slightly more impressive than his actual record as an SAS weekend reservist in his youth.

One hopes that behind the scenes he is pulling the strings that his fellow Brexiteers would otherwise be pulling out. Genial and good at small talk, Mr Davis always comes to the negotiators’ podium looking as if he’s enjoying himself a bit too much. However, rather that than the sort of car crash speech to Party in 2005, so boring he had to tell the audience he’d finished.

Verdict: It’s good someone has a laid back sense of humour on the negotiating team and he does seem to be getting on with Michel Barnier. Nevertheless, he needs to prioritise the country’s future over his social life if the stories about bailing out early in December’s talks have any truth.

Liam Fox is a Brexiteer’s Brexiteer. The Secretary of State for International Trade wears a red white and blue heart on his sleeve and can be relied upon to give robust speeches that keep the Brexit vision in focus. He also brings ideological steel to the Brexit cause as a staunch advocate of free trade, which, as the negotiators will have us believe is the key to a new golden age.

It has been said that he is where he is, because he would be more dangerous to the prime minister outside of the ‘tent’. His faith in divergence and intransigence in the face of criticism  makes him a drummer for the Brexit beat that thumps at the heart of the Tory Party. That said, the good doctor, comes with some baggage which inevitably raises some question marks about his integrity.

Verdict: His intransigence, along with an unconcealed infatuation with America, more than hints at a lack of the kind of pragmatism that will be needed in the coming year. At times, he also looks swamped in a suit.

Boris Johnson has been a figure of Shakespearean tragedy since the cut and thrust of his referendum campaign turned the country on its head. Unfortunately for Boris, being an irreverent foreign secretary has exposed him in a way that being an irreverent Mayor of London did not.

One can sense his frustration (and if we can’t his periodic media leaks will remind us of the fact). He is a political beast that is having trouble roaring, despite having the profile to get noticed.  Like the boy who cried wolf, his referendum performance was seen to have been conducted with an eye on self promotion and yet another ‘landmark speech’ in February failed to raise him to the Churchillian status he craves.

Verdict: Frequently hoisted by his own petard. Boris is desperate to have a say in the Brexit narrative but so far nobody seems particularly interested. To the Europeans his Eton incubated sense of humour and English eccentricity often seems merely strange and offensive. He has a year to come up with a speech that hits the right tone of vision (do not discount him taking a tip from the Darkest Hour’s deplorable tube scene to connect with his people).

Luan de Burgh

March 2018

Luan de Burgh is a speaker, writer and founder of de Burgh Training – a specialist business communication training provider dedicated to helping people perform at their highest potential.