David Davis was forced to jump to the defense of Theresa May this morning, batting away accusations that her Article 50 letter threatened to end Britain’s security co-operation with the EU.
Mrs May struck an optimistic tone as she ground Brexit into gear.
In her letter, hand-delivered by Britain’s EU ambassador Tim Barrow into the hands of President of the European Council Donald Tusk, Mrs May said: ‘The United Kingdom wants to agree with the European Union a deep and special partnership that takes in both economic and security cooperation.
‘To achieve this, we believe it is necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the EU.’
But it wasn’t long before cold water was poured unceremoniously over her negotiating strategy.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel deftly derailed Mrs May’s plans for trade talks to take place at the same time as negotiations for Britain’s departure.
The Chancellor said: ‘The negotiations must first clarify how we will disentangle our interlinked relationship, and only when this question is dealt with, can we, hopefully soon after, begin talking about our future relationship.’
Another blow came from Manfred Weber, the head of the European Parliament’s biggest political bloc.
He warned: ‘History will show that Brexit is a tremendous mistake. It will create a lot of damage for both sides.’
Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt made it quite clear that Theresa May could not use security as a bargaining tool in discussions regarding the divorce between Britain and the EU.
He stated: ‘What we shall never accept is that there is a trade-off between the one and other. Saying, oh, we can do a good deal on security – internal and external – but there is also a deal that we want on trade and economics.
‘I think the security of our citizens is far too important to start a trade off from one to the other.’
More doom and gloom came in the form of French President Francois Hollande’s reaction to the beginning of Brexit.
Mr Hollande warned that while Brexit was ‘sentimentally painful’ for Europe it would be ‘economically painful’ for Britain.
Back on home soil, the news was hardly better for Mrs May.
SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson pulled no punches speaking in parliament.
He told the Commons: ‘The Prime Minister says that she thinks Brexit will bring unity to the United Kingdom, it will not. On this issue it is not a United Kingdom and the Prime Minister needs to respect the differences across the nations of the United Kingdom.
‘If she does not, if she remains intransigent, and if she denies Scotland a choice on our future, she will make Scottish independence inevitable.’
Another bad omen for the state of the union came from Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones, who dangled the sword of Welsh independence over the head of Theresa May.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today Programme, Mr Jones set out his stance that access to the single market is a deal-breaker, saying: ‘We want fuller and unfettered access to the single market.’
Unsurprisingly, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had few kind words to say about the Brexit strategy, and warned that his party would gladly set themselves in the way of Theresa May’s designs.
He said: ‘The direction the Prime Minister is threatening to take this country in is both reckless and damaging.
‘Labour will not give this Government a free hand to use Brexit to attack rights, protections and cut services.’