Crossbench peer Lord John Kerr, who authored Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, claims that uncertainty surrounding who exactly will lead Britain’s negotiations means the chances of a deal happening at all rests on a knife edge.
While Brexit Secretary David Davis made clear he would be the main person attempting to thrash out terms with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, the upcoming General Election may change things, according to Mr Kerr.
He said: “It seems clear that the Foreign Secretary is not going to play any role in this negotiation.
“It seems clear that Mr Davis is, but to what extent he is an independent operator I don’t know.”
He described Mr Davis, who he once worked for in John Major’s government, as “nice, straightforward, honest [but] not particularly experienced in this sort of dossier”.
Mr Kerr added that a “small circle” around Theresa May was controlling Brexit – that didn’t include the Foreign Office, most officials and ministers.
Talking to a small Brussels audience at the European Policy Centre, he said the government had made “a very large negotiating mistake” by not making the EU an early offer of the closest possible cooperation on foreign policy, counter-terrorism and intelligence sharing.
His comments came as the Prime Minister warned that a failure to secure the right deal would put “economic security and prosperity at risk”.
Speaking on the steps of Downing Street, Mrs May warned: “If we do not stand up and get this negotiation right we risk the secure and well-paid jobs we want for our children and our children’s children too.
“If we don’t get the negotiation right, if we let the bureaucrats of Brussels run over us, we will lose the chance to build a fairer society with real opportunity for all.”
Top pic: Rex