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Theresa May has 'hamstrung' Brexit negotiations, says former George Osborne and David Davis adviser

3 min read

Theresa May's inflexibility has "hamstrung" the UK's attempts to get a good Brexit deal, according to a former adviser to George Osborne and David Davis.


James Chapman said the Prime Minister's "red lines" on ruling out any involvement for the European Court of Justice once Britain leaves the EU had made Brexit Secretary Mr Davis's job "very difficult".

He also warned that the Government will struggle to gets its Brexit plans programme through the House of Commons unless Mrs May shows more "pragmatism" in her approach.

Mr Chapman was George Osborne's director of communications before the EU referendum, and then went on to become Mr Davis's chief of staff. He is now a partner with PR firm Bell Pottinger.

Speaking to Radio Four's 'Week in Westminster' programme, he said: "Where she’s taken some absolutist positions on particular issues, I’m thinking of The European Court of Justice, she’s set a red line effectively for a conference speech that hamstrung these negotiations in my view.

"On David Davis, there isn’t anyone better to do this negotiation in parliament in my view. He’s a very tough, resilient operator.  There have been red lines that have been set for him, that make the job he has to do very difficult."

Mr Chapman, a former political editor of the Daily Mail, also took a swipe at Mrs May's determination to bring net migration down to the tens if thousands, arguing it has put her at odds with the likes of Mr Davis and Boris Johnson.

He said: "If you consider the two most powerful Brexiters in the cabinet, David Davis and Boris Johnson, they’re actually pretty liberal on issues like immigration. I think that there would be room to recalibrate some of this approach, but at the moment she is showing no willingness to do this.

"If she doesn’t, in my view, show more flexibility, show more of the pragmatism that she did demonstrate in the Home Office, she won’t get this stuff through parliament."

Mr Chapman pointed to the Prime Minister's opposition to the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community, which allows nuclear scientists to work throughout the EU, as an example of where he believes Mrs May's approach is harming Britain.

He said: "The Government has announced its intention to withdraw from the Euratom treaty as we leave the EU and the reason for that appears to be there’s a locus for the European Court of Justice in that treaty which covers the free movement of nuclear scientists.

"Now I would have thought the UK would like to continue welcoming nuclear scientists, who are all probably being paid six figures and are paying lots of tax. But we’re withdrawing from it because of this absolutist position on the European Court. I think she could show some flexibility in that area and argue actually surely we want nuclear scientist to come to this country."

Mr Chapman also called on Mrs May to carry out a reshuffle, arguing "a political party is in a bad place when there are more talented people on its backbenches than there are on the frontbenches".

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