Brexit – who is David Davis?

The man charged with leading Britain’s negotiating team glories in the title of Secretary of State for Leaving the European Union. But who is David Davis?

EU flag
Source: Bloomberg

Brexit referendum in the UK produced an earthquake at the top of the British government. Prime Minister David Cameron departed, and was replaced by then Home Secretary Theresa May. Her reshuffle marked the departure of Chancellor George Osborne, the moving of Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond to the Treasury, and the installation of Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary. But perhaps the most interesting development, for connoisseurs of Conservative Party history at least, was the return to frontline politics of David Davis, who received the task of leading the new Department for Exiting the European Union - we’ll call him the Brexit Secretary from here.

Mr Davis had been a contender for the leadership of the party back in 2005, as the Conservative Party went through a leadership change following its third successive defeat to Tony Blair’s New Labour. Indeed, he was seen as the favourite, before a backbench MP named David Cameron stormed into the lead.

Following this, Mr Davis remained Shadow Home Secretary until 2008, when he resigned to defend civil liberties. Although he won re-election, he was not reappointed to the shadow cabinet, and remained a backbencher throughout the 2010 coalition government, and into the 2015 Conservative majority administration.

The Brexit vote changed many things, and it finally brought Mr Davis back to the front rank of MPs, with a position in cabinet. He has long been a Eurosceptic, having been Europe minister from 1994 to 1997, and thus, like many Conservative MPs, developing a dislike for the EU, having seen it at close quarters. His view on Brexit is that the UK can agree a trade deal that keeps tariff-free access to the single market, with an ‘export-led’ growth strategy.

In early negotiations, Mr Davis and his team have had to concede that the UK would need to agree an exit deal with the EU before trade talks should commence, with the discussion on EU citizens in the UK a key part of this. Recently, Chancellor Phillip Hammond has argued that the UK could seek a transitional deal, something which Mr Davis has downplayed.

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