So @DominicRaab tells @katyballs he was "on the brink" of a #Brexit breakthrough on Ireland, but was thwarted by @DLidington - this is a gross distortion of the truth. It mustn't stand. 1/thread
As it happened, I broke the story of Raab using his dinner with @simoncoveney to demand a unilateral three-month time-limit to the backstop - the story was published on November 5...as it reported, Raab's gambit "stunned" Irish officials. /2
Let's put aside David Lidington's alleged role in scuppering @DominicRaab grand plan, and consider the likelihood of a three-month, or six month maximum time limit succeeding at that point, as the Withdrawal Agreement was on the cusp of being agreed. It was clearly nonsense./3
More than that, as was clear from talking to both Irish, British and EU officials, @DominicRaab would have absolutely known that it was nonsense. How could he not? /4
On September 6 I broke the story of @DominicRaab getting up @MichelBarnier gander by telling him the Irish would have to put up border if Brits walked away. After the story broke people close to Raab gleefully confirmed it. /5
Barnier himself confirmed the story in the Brexit Behind Closed Doors documentary. There is simply NO WAY Raab didn't know his hardline pitch to @simoncoveney
was totally unrealistic. /6
Which begs the next question. What the hell was the Brexit Secretary, protege of @DavidDavisMP doing going to @simoncoveney and proposing something that trashed the Joint Report of December 2017 and UK government policy? Was he authorised? Was it part of a plan? /7
The answer is that he was free-lancing, and doing it for his own ends: namely to burnish his credentials for this precise moment. The leadership contest.
Ironically, he was encouraged by No 10 to go to see Coveney "in the hope he could be educated", as one involved put it. /8
The point here is that talk to people deep inside the negotiations - in Ireland, in Brussels, London - no-one thinks that @DominicRaab was in it for anything other than himself. Hard to find anyone with a good word to say. /9
There was nothing constructive about his tilt at @simoncoveney (in terms of actually delivering a deal) and I'm told Coveney "didn't rise" to Raab, which was a mistake - not setting him straight - because Raab has a habit of twisting meetings according to both sides. /10
So when Raab meets with Barnier (he was careful not to take officials) and Barnier says that he wants the backstop to be "as short as possible" (which the EU does) then Raab will twist that into Brussels recognising need to "time-limit" backstop/11
In my discussions, the adjectives used to describe Raab's dealings as Brexit secretary span from "disingenuous" at the kind end of the spectrum, to "dishonest" at the more frank end. /12
So @DLidington did not thwart Raab's plan when he met @simoncoveney after that dinner in London. He merely stated the truth - which was that the UK government stood by the pledges it had made in the December 2017 Joint Report. /13
I go back to the timeline. The two sides were on the brink of an agreement. The Irish position hadn’t changed for two years. Is Raab suggesting it was going to change over a nice meal and an unexplained promise. It simply doesn't pass the test of credibility. /14
Raab blamed the Irish government - indeed Taoiseach @LeoVaradkar of briefing against him, and leaking the story. A claim that the Irish govt described as "off the wall". But with Raab it is always someone else - Lidington, Varadkar - out to get him /15
But Leo Varadkar didn't deign to comment on Raab's 'plan' until the morning after @Telegraph broke the story and he was doorstepped by the press pack. /16
And just look at what @simoncoveney and @LeoVaradkar said at the time. Pretty much nothing more than common sense or a statement of the obvious. /17
So. For the record, Dominic Raab (who I have never had the pleasure of meeting) was NOT on 'the brink' of fixing the backstop or #Brexit. Do I even need to say that? And whatever claims he makes to be the new PM, this can't be, seriously among them. /18
It is also to his great discredit, in my view, that he blames Lidington, or Varadkar or 'the machine' for thwarting him.
The problem, dare I suggest, is rather closer to home.
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