Brexit secretary David Davis is reportedly being sidelined in discussions with the EU, after it was claimed that his former chief official is breaking protocol by holding talks with the lead negotiator in Brussels.
Despite Mr Davis being tasked with leading Britain’s exit from the European Union, The Times claims that his former permanent secretary Oliver Robbins is effectively leading negotiations by dealing directly with chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier.
Although the Department for Exiting the European Union described the idea of Mr Davis being sidelined as ‘wholly inaccurate’, they did not deny that Mr Robbins had held talks with Barnier without the Brexit Secretary being present.
It is also claimed that Mr Davis has only met Barnier for a ‘couple of hours’ at the end of each negotiating session – with official figures showing that he visited Brussels for only four days between July and September.
In contrast, Mr Robbins spent 18 days in talks with EU negotiators during this period – with sources claiming that he was ultimately the key British figure in striking the agreement of citizens’ rights and the divorce settlement that was finally announced earlier this month.
Mr Robbins was initially a part of the Department for Exiting the EU, before joining the Cabinet Office to take a role in a newly formed European Unit.
A spokeswoman for DeXEu said: ’This characterisation of the negotiations is wholly and wilfully inaccurate.
‘The Brexit secretary meets with his counterpart, Michel Barnier, at regular intervals to oversee the negotiations.
‘In November they agreed their officials would maintain a constant dialogue, so it should be of no surprise that senior British civil servants press the UK’s case as set by the prime minister and Brexit secretary.’