David Davis admitting he has no proper plans for Brexit truly was a Churchillian moment

Mark Steel

David Davis is doing well out of the latest collapse in Britain’s talks with the EU, as he now looks so clueless he’s quite sweet, as if he won his position as Brexit Secretary in a competition hosted on morning television with Lorraine Kelly.

At some point, he answered three questions about Taylor Swift, and Lorraine went, “Ooooh that’s right, you’re going to the EU, that’s GORGEOUS, it’s going to be so exciting sweetheart, you’ll have to swot up about all the different countries, will you send me back a picture from Brussels, I can’t WAIT to see how you get on with Mister Barnier.”

He looks as if he takes out his papers at the start of each negotiation, and says, “Ah, I’ve brought the wrong folder. I’ve got my MOT here, and the stuff I need for getting car tax. Can we leave Ireland to next week?”

So it’s endearing that he told us, “No assessment of overall impact of Brexit on UK has been carried out.” That’s for the best, as you don’t want to spoil a surprise by carrying out an overall assessment in advance of what might happen.

It would be like finding out what happens at the end of a film before going to see it. Part of the fun of wrecking a 50-year long economic direction of a country is having no idea what pops up at the end.

In any case, if you’ve been busy your entire adult life campaigning to leave the EU, then become a leading figure in a referendum campaign to “get your country back”, then become the minister in charge of leaving, you don’t have any time left for working out what might happen when you get your way. But some people seem to expect you to do EVERYTHING.

It’s always for the best, when embarking on a major historical shift in your country’s political outlook, to make no assessment of what your decision might cause. You didn’t get Winston Churchill making plans and assessments; he just said, “Let’s go to war” – and if anyone asked what might happen if we went to war, or who we should go to war with, he’d tell them: “Stop being traitors, now set fire to something.”

So you get these discussions between figures in British industry, who ask “What tariffs are likely to be imposed, and what expectations do we have in terms of exchange rates and property values and public borrowing and interest rates?” And the Government replies, “How should we bloody know, we’ll win because we’re BRITAIN, we won the World Cup once and we’ve got Nigella Lawson and Phil the Power Taylor.”

One complaint against Davis is that he lied, because he had said earlier, several times, there was an “impact assessment”, but this was in no way misleading, even though he now says there isn’t one. It’s possible he was being truthful on both occasions, because there had been one, but now it’s gone, accidentally thrown into the recycling bin with the pizza leaflets.

Last December he said we had 57 separate assessments, then in June he said we had “50, nearly 60,” which isn’t a number you would say if you had any real idea, but a number a toddler makes up. He might as well have said, “The number we have is Helsinki, twice as much as Barbara Windsor.”

And now we don’t have any. Maybe he’s like a mobile phone when it drops in the bath, he’s got wet and spurts out random numbers that make no sense, so when he’s asked next week how many impact assessments we have, he’ll say “999,999,999”.

He had said the assessment “went into excruciating detail” – and to be fair, he may not have been lying, because he didn’t say what subject the excruciating detail was about. It might have gone: “I’m stuffed if I know what’s going to happen to the economy, but here are the names and addresses of everyone who lives in Oxford.”

One way forward for all sides may be if, instead of actual agreements and treaties, the negotiations are all written on the sides of buses. We seem quite good at that, whereas complicated documents get us down.

So in place of all that bureaucracy, we get someone to drive a bus through Brussels with a sign saying: “Germans have to pay for a paddling pool for everyone in Grimsby”, and that’s what they have to do.

The problem for Theresa May seems to be that she’s in check whichever way she moves. So she thought, “Ah, I could move this way, by backing down to the EU on absolutely everything in a manner that’s the exact opposite of what everyone in my Government yelled they would do. I doubt anyone will notice.”

But she couldn’t even do that, because it was pointed out she hadn’t spotted that the DUP was covering that move, and under the new rules she introduced, they’re allowed to move diagonally.

Luckily the DUP are a rational bunch, and will always back the most reasonable and practical compromise, in all the best traditions of Presbyterian creationist Orange Loyalist evangelism.

So now there are calls for David Davis to resign, which makes you wonder whether the Government is playing a Christmas party game where every cabinet member has to be under threat of resignation at the same time.

By Boxing Day, the Education Secretary will be the last one left, and get herself arrested for being drunk and naked with a crack dealer in charge of a milk float in a cat’s home in Swansea.

But it won’t be her fault, because she’ll have made no assessment whatsoever of what might happen if she did.