Article 50 and Brexit: Are Estragon and Vladimir on the move?

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13th July 2016

What can we make of the cabinet appointments this evening of Boris Johnson, Liam Fox, and David Davis?

Do the appointments mean Brexit is more likely or less likely?

Are they the Three Musketeers – Three Brexiteers – or are they the Three Stooges?


Of the three appointments, the one which should worry Remainers is that of David Davis.  It is a serious appointment.  He was an outstanding Chair of the main Commons watchdog committee, the Public Accounts Committee, and a competent Europe minister.  He is not a politician to underestimate.

That said: there is the irony that, because of his genuine civil liberties concerns, he is currently suing the UK government at the European Court of Justice so as to enforce EU law.  Not the most appropriate thing a Brexit minister should be doing, one may say.

But what difference will the appointment make?


On the day of the referendum result, I contended that the longer the delay, the less likely the UK would send the Article 50 notification.

This is not because of any lack of political will: it is because of the sheer policy and legal challenges of Brexit are such that delay will invariably mean events and excuses will come into play.

I still hold that view – but the appointment of a serious player like Davis does prompt a slight wobble.  If there is any Brexit politician who can do it, it would be him.

Estragon and Vladimir are still not getting up, but one could detect a twitch this evening.


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9 thoughts on “Article 50 and Brexit: Are Estragon and Vladimir on the move?”

  1. I am wondering if events conspiring will include the ongoing investigation into ‘battlebus’ expenses and other administrative errors. One thing is for sure the pantomime had a long way to run yet.

    PS I love the irony of the brexit minister bringing an action under EU law.

  2. If there is a lesson from the past few weeks, it is surely that people have misunderstood and underestimated Theresa May. Every appointment she has made makes sense, yet several have still surprised. We’ve yet to hear words of dissent from the faithful, even when she’s spouted lines that might have come from the mouth of Ed Milliband.

    Incidentally, any doubts that article 50 will be invoked have surely been put to bed. It surely will be activated. The real question is what will that mean in practice.

    Personally I’ve just moved from the future to the past. I’v just moved house from Theresa May’s constituency to David Cameron’s. I think the pace of life will be somewhat slower for all concerned.

  3. You really can’t make any kind of a prediction at the moment. It would be foolish to make an Article 50 declaration before:

    – the negotiators on all sides who will conduct the discussion are known
    – exploratory talks are held covering a wide range of topics with them to gain an overall view of the expected positions
    – based on this information, some overall negotiation positions , with red lines and fallback positions are developed
    – a rough timeline, taking account of political milestones like the several elections due in Europe is drafted

    It would be unreasonable to require all this to be in place BEFORE the referendum – a lot of it depends on work which the various EU countries will have to do. For instance, several Commission functionaries have indicated that they would like to see the UK damaged as much as possible for having the temerity to vote against EU requirements. It is likely that businesses in those countries who trade with the UK may have a different opinion. This will need to be settled inside each of these countries before we can sensibly move to detailed negotiations.

    I would, in practice, expect the actual Article 50 announcement date to be driven by the EU rather than the UK…

  4. By placing the senior Brexit campaigners in positions responsible for our exit from the EU, our new PM has shown her metal; if we succeed in Europe, then Mrs May has led us to a great success, however if we fail she can lay that failure at the feet of the very people who caused the mess in the first place, Boris, Davies and Co.

    1. I would much rather the PM showed us her mettle by keeping the country out of the mess it seems to be heading towards rather than merely finding someone else to blame for it.

    1. He can’t have been [x] at [date 1] because of [y] at [date 2] is not necessarily a valid argument.

      1. “Necessarily” is the key word there. General point taken, though.

        A rather glaring omission from Davis that I thought would have worried some.

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