Dominic Raab “chickened out” of no-deal Brexit after his threats to pull out of talks were met with support from the EU, Michel Barnier states in his new book.
The Grand Illusion: A Secret Diary of Brexit – out this autumn in English – delivers a detailed insight into Brexit negotiations from the EU’s chief negotiator.
In one section, Barnier singles out Raab – Britain’s then Brexit secretary – as untrustworthy and “not a man of nuance”.
Barnier recounts how Raab immediately withdrew his demand to pull out talks if Brussels failed to meet Britain’s demands on special customs arrangements.
“My heart skipped a beat,” Barnier wrote, adding he replied: “Negotiations can stop right away… And I will prepare myself in the next days to inform the European parliament and member states. We will note that negotiations failed on Brexit itself.”
Raab immediately tried to remediate the situation, telling Raab he had gone “too far” with his threats.
He also mentions Raab’s oft-mocked declaration that he was surprised to find out the U.K. was “particularly dependent upon the Dover-Calais crossing,” writing: “I don’t even want to smile but there is definitely something that is deranged in the British system.”
On Britain’s negotiating team, the French politician said they were the victims of Conservative party infighting and “political piracy”.
“The current team in Downing St is not up to the challenges of Brexit nor to the responsibility that is theirs for having wanted Brexit. Simply, I no longer trust them,” he wrote, before turning his ire on Theresa May and her “red-lines” speech at Lancaster House.
“Have the consequences of these decisions been thought through, measured, discussed? Does she realise this rules out almost all forms of cooperation we have with our partners?,” he asked.
Barnier also questioned the claim that Britain could not be truly “global” inside of the EU. “I do wonder what, until now, has prevented the UK from becoming ‘Global Britain’, other than its own lack of competitiveness,” he writes. “Germany has become ‘Global Germany’ while being firmly inside the EU and the eurozone.”