Jeremy Hunt claims that Theresa May plans to set up the Brexit department to stop Boris Johnson handling Brexit negotiations as foreign secretary. Mr Hunt said Mrs May made a “deliberate decision” to sideline the then Foreign Secretary Mr Johnson. The decision to create the now-defunct department was “a deliberate decision to take Brexit out of the hands of the Foreign Office while Boris (Johnson) was foreign secretary”.
While talking in an interview with the Institute for Government (IfG) think tank, Mr Hunt and his cabinet colleague David Lidington hinted at Theresa May’s thinking in the crucial months after the UK voted to leave the EU.
“When I became foreign secretary, we got a bit more involved, but obviously structurally it was the job of the DExEU Secretary of State to do the negotiations with Brussels, but I was reasonably closely involved,” Hunt said.
David Liddington, who is also known as Theresa May’s de facto deputy, later stated that it was a mistake to form the DExEU department. “Now, that’s not to denigrate the officials or the ministers who work there, but the fact you had then DExEU try to do things and Number 10 and the cabinet trying to do things as well… and the contingency planning as a function sits in the Cabinet Office anyway, because all this stuff about the reasonable worst-case scenario, that is standard civil contingency planning language,” Liddington said.
“In my ideal world, I would not have invented DExEU as a department. I would have had a big unit, but I would have located it as an annex to the Cabinet Office and Number 10 because the prime minister was going to be driving the negotiations,” he added.
Mr Johnson and Mr Davis, both resigned from Mrs May’s cabinet in July 2018 after She presented them with her so-called ‘Chequers plan’ to keep the UK closely aligned to EU goods regulations. Liddington further revealed that the cross-party talks between the Conservations and the Labour Party came “pretty close” to find a compromise over Brexit. He also suggested that Mrs May should have discussed opposition leaders when she became the PM in 2016 to build consensus.