How Dominic Raab was David Davis’s ‘suicide bomber’: Brexit Secretary ‘always intended to blow up deal’, just ‘went through the motions and wanted the top job’
- Dominic Raab’s resignation as Brexit secretary was predicted two months ago
- Government insiders claim he wanted to resign to boost his leadership chances
- Downing Street sources were suspicious of Raab’s relationship with David Davis
- Senior Tories are jostling to take position to replace Theresa May as PM
Dominic Raab’s resignation as Brexit Secretary was predicted more than two months ago by senior Government figures who described him as a ‘suicide bomber’ who always intended to blow apart Mrs May’s Brexit deal – and, in so doing, boost his own leadership ambitions.
Mr Raab said he had quit the Cabinet because he had come to the conclusion that the agreement which he had helped Mrs May to draw up presented ‘a very real threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom’ and that he could not ‘in good conscience’ support it.
Friends said he felt that he had been cut out of an 11th-hour editing of the deal, which contained unexpected changes in the wording that would tie the Government’s hands in future negotiations.
Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab resigned from Cabinet this week after claiming he could not support the Brexit deal his former department was responsible for negotiating
But Mr Raab’s intentions – and links to his predecessor David Davis, who also quit over Mrs May’s EU plans – were long a subject of suspicion in Downing Street and the Treasury.
A senior Government source said: ‘We always called him the suicide bomber and said DD was his controller. Raab just went through the motions of carrying out the negotiations until it suited him to detonate.
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‘And it was completely dishonest for Raab to brief that he was resigning over not being informed of the final contents of the paper presented. He knew full well what was coming. He is just fundamentally unwilling to take any responsibility for anything hard or complicated.’
Friends of both Mr Raab and Mr Davis last night dismissed the claims as ‘ridiculous’. But Scottish Secretary David Mundell said Mr Raab’s resignation was about ‘manoeuvring and leadership’.
Raab was pictured buying a case of Peroni at his local off licence in Esher on Friday
Mr Raab’s move is widely seen to have given him ‘first mover’ advantage in any leadership contest caused by Mrs May losing a no confidence vote.
Two of his main rivals, Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, expressed their concerns about Mrs May’s deal during Wednesday’s fiery Cabinet meeting – but both are still in their jobs and obliged by collective responsibility to defend the deal.
Brexiteer Tory MPs reserve particular ire for Mr Hunt, who they accuse of rejecting overtures from Michael Gove to join him in putting pressure on Mrs May to go to Brussels to try to renegotiate the deal. One said: ‘He is just a male Theresa May, a sell-out, no backbone.’
Mr Davis – who had hoped to be anointed automatically as caretaker leader if Mrs May was unseated – is now thought to be considering joining a Raab leadership bid instead.
Boris Johnson eyes Raab with deep suspicion, with one of his supporters saying: ‘This is no time for a novice’. Liz Truss, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, is also considering running. But friends indicate that she is most likely to act as ‘kingmaker’ in a contest.
Although Mr Javid’s allies have approached Ms Truss to join a putative leadership team she is understood to be ‘leaning towards’ the idea of joining Raab’s team – on the understanding that if he was elected he would go back to Brussels to renegotiate. However, this is rejected by Brussels. One EU source said: ‘There is no appetite for further concessions. What has been agreed is delicately balanced. The deal is the deal.’
Senior Tories such as David Davis, left, are believed to be plotting against Theresa May, right
The most recent rankings of potential leaders among Tory voters by the ConservativeHome website – assembled before last week’s drama – put Boris Johnson top, followed by Sajid Javid, David Davis, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Dominic Raab, Jeremy Hunt and then Michael Gove. Tory MPs will decide which two candidates go forward to party members for the final vote. But it is still far from clear whether there will be a leadership contest.
A former Tory party chairman told The Mail on Sunday: ‘If there is a no confidence vote, I think she will face it down and win.
‘She will have been inspired by the example of Jeremy Corbyn, who saw off a coup attempt by his MPs. She has a massive “payroll vote” of Ministers – over 100 of them – and paid vice-chairs who keep their jobs by voting for her. Also, and don’t underestimate this fact, she lives for the job – so has every incentive to persevere.’
The UK’s turmoil has dismayed Brussels. Some senior EU officials have even discussed delaying next Sunday’s Brussels summit, which is meant to finalise the Brexit deal, until after a Commons vote.
They say that if the deal is likely to be rejected, then next weekend’s summit would be a ‘waste of everyone’s time’.
So what happens next?
Q What happens next for Theresa May?
A First she must see off a possible leadership challenge. As early as this week, a vote of no-confidence could be triggered if 48 Conservative MPs (15 per cent of the total) send letters to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, calling for Mrs May to stand down. More than 20 have already done so.
Q How could she be toppled?
A Mrs May, right, would need to win a majority (half of the MPs’ votes plus one) to win, and thus be protected from a further challenge for a year. If she lost the confidence vote, contenders would put themselves forward for a new leadership election. Mrs May would be barred from standing.
Q Who would decide on the new Tory leader?
A At first, MPs would vote for their favourite candidate in successive rounds until those with the lowest number of supporters are knocked out and only two choices remain. Conservative Party members across the country would then get to vote for the final winner.
Q And if Mrs May survives the immediate threat to her leadership?
A The second and greater risk is that her Brexit deal will not get through Parliament. Last week’s withdrawal agreement will likely be signed off by EU leaders later this month and could be voted on by MPs as early as December 7.
Q How do the votes stack up?
A Mrs May needs 320 MPs to vote for her deal, but the Conservatives have not had a majority since last year’s disastrous General Election, and the DUP’s ten MPs, who have propped up the Tories for the past year, have already said they will not back it. Anyone with a Government post will support Mrs May and some backbench MPs remain loyal, but it is thought that together they will only number about 250. A handful of Labour MPs will likely back the deal as they believe in honouring the referendum result, but leader Jeremy Corbyn is expected to whip his party to vote it down.
Q So how can Mrs May get over the line?
A Government whips must spend the next few weeks trying to win over Tory MPs considering rebelling. They will likely warn them of the dramatic consequences of their actions. If the deal is voted down, Britain would face a dramatic no-deal exit in March, potentially leading to huge queues at borders and possible shortages of food and medicine.
Q Could she still get a better deal from the EU?
A Many Tory rebels, in particular the ‘pizza club’ of leading Brexiteer Ministers, would be won over if the withdrawal deal made it easier for Britain to leave the customs union with the EU. Currently, the agreement states that if a future trade deal is not done by the end of 2020, the so-called ‘backstop’ arrangement would lock the whole of the UK into the EU customs territory, limiting the ability to sign deals with other countries. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already said there is ‘no question’ of reopening talks and European Parliament negotiator Guy Verhofstadt said there is no space to ‘start again’, despite the likely impact of a no-deal exit on both sides of the Channel.
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