The man charged with negotiating the best possible Brexit deal for Britan is as “thick as mince”, according to the former head of the Vote Leave campaign
Dominic Cummings issued the extraordinary attack on Brexit Secretary David Davis as he warned that a provision in the Brexit Secretary’s so-called Great Repeal Bill would allow ministers to cave in to EU demands at the last minute.
It reflects the growing rancour between different wings of the Brexit movement which has seen intense infighting at the time of last year’s EU referendum.
And it comes as Theresa May is set to lay down the law with senior colleagues on the need to keep Cabinet discussions private, after a series of vicious leaks targeting Chancellor Philip Hammond.
Mr Cummings has previously admitted there was a chance that leaving the EU would turn out to be an “error” and described Government members who thought the UK should leave the European atomic energy community Euratom as “morons”.
In a stream of messages on Twitter, Mr Cummings warned that a little-noticed clause of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill tabled by the Government last week could allow ministers to alter their Brexit position at the last minute to secure a lengthy transition period.
He said the Brexit Secretary was “manufactured exactly to specification as the perfect stooge for Heywood: thick as mince, lazy as a toad and vain as Narcissus”.
Theresa May will use Tuesday’s regular Cabinet meeting to “remind” ministers that they should maintain silence about the content of meetings and focus on their job of delivering for the public, Mrs May’s official spokesman told reporters.
The attempt to instil Cabinet discipline comes after a series of newspaper headlines about Mr Hammond’s comments at last week’s Cabinet, culminating in a Daily Telegraph front page story quoting an unnamed minister accusing the Chancellor of trying to “f*** up” Brexit.
Mrs May’s spokesman declined to discuss the content of the leaks, but told reporters at a regular Westminster media briefing: “Of course, Cabinet must be able to hold discussions of Government policy in private and the Prime Minister will be reminding her colleagues of that at the Cabinet meeting tomorrow.”
The infighting came as the second round of EU withdrawal talks got under way in Brussels, with Brexit Secretary David Davis and European Commission chief negotiator Michel Barnier saying that officials will focus on the issues of citizens’ rights, borders and the UK’s financial settlement in discussions due to last four days.
Mr Cummings, a former special adviser to Michael Gove in the Department for Education, worked behind the scenes on the Vote Leave campaign which was fronted by figures including Mr Gove and Boris Johnson.
The Vote Leave director has now said that Mr Davis “spent the campaign boozing with (Nigel) Farage, predicting defeat” and was involved in the “single crappest TV news for Leave of entire campaign”, when Grassroots Out unveiled George Galloway as a supporter.
Mr Cummings insisted his latest comments were not prompted by any falling out between Mr Gove and Mr Davis, insisting he had not spoken to the Environment Secretary about his Cabinet colleague since before last year’s referendum.
He said the implications of Clause 9 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill may not be understood by MPs or even by Prime Minister Theresa May.
The Clause gives ministers the power to use secondary legislation “to make legislative changes which they consider appropriate for the purposes of implementing the withdrawal agreement”, including by amending the Bill itself.
Mr Cummings said this would embolden EU negotiators to make greater demands on the UK because they would know ministers were not bound by the text of the bill and “can be arm twisted up to last second”.
The Government would be “empowered to ditch almost anything they promise up to last minute when arms twist”, making it much easier to implement a protracted transition period to full withdrawal from the EU, he warned.