WATCH David Davis: I don’t need to be clever or know that much to be Brexit Secretary
David Davis has said he doesn’t need to “be very clever” or “know that much” in order to be Brexit Secretary.
In an extraordinary interview on LBC this morning, the Cabinet minister in charge of extricating the UK from the EU said his main function during the Brexit negotiations was to “be calm”.
Mr Davis also performed a major U-turn by insisting the Brexit deal struck by Theresa May on the Irish border was "more than legally enforceable" - just 24 hours after suggesting it was not.
He also claimed that Chancellor Philip Hammond "mis-spoke" last week when he said the UK will pay a Brexit divorce bill even if it fails to reach a trade deal with the rest of the EU.
The Tory veteran has come in for criticism over his handling of the Brexit negotiations, but commenting on his role during the historic process, he said: “What’s the requirement of my job? I don’t have to be very clever or know that much. I just have to be calm.”
He later said that economic forecasts had "all been proven wrong" and admitted he could lose his job in the future.
"I suspect I am shackled to the mast, unless they decide I am not very good at it in which case they'll sack me," he said. "Anybody can do details. I'll let you do the details."
Mr Davis sparked a backlash from Dublin last night after he appeared to water down the Government's commitment to avoiding a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland.
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that the agreement struck between the Prime Minister and Jean-Claude Juncker - which is set to be rubber-stamped by the rest of the EU later this week - was more of "a statement of intent" rather than "a legally enforceable thing".
Reacting to the comments, the Irish deputy prime minister Simon Coveney took to Twitter last night to stress that Britain had made "a clear and positive commitment" to the deal.
In an attempt to defuse the row, Mr Davis told LBC: “Of course it’s legally enforceable… It’s more than legally enforceable.”
Elsewhere in the interview the Brexit Secretary said Philip Hammond "slightly mis-spoke" when he suggested Britain would pay the Brexit divorce bill no matter what the outcome of negotiations.
He said: "It says at the beginning of the thing, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. It’s the classical European Union thing. It’s every treaty. They put it there not us.
"You’ll have to ask him (why he said it). I don’t know what the context was I really don’t. The straightforward fact is this whole payment is contingent on a deal."