Blog: Has Dominic Cummings’ exit made a Brexit deal more likely? – POLITICO.eu

LONDON — Boris Johnson’s chief aide Dominic Cummings quit last week at a critical time for Brexit negotiations. But what— if anything — does this mean for Brexit?

The official line — rolled out by Environment Secretary George Eustice on the Sunday political shows — is: Not a lot. 

On one level there’s reason to believe that. 

David Frost, Johnson’s chief negotiator remains in post and is said by officials in government to be no soft touch on Brexit, reportedly more “hard-nosed” about sticking to negotiating red lines than heavyweight Brexiteer ministers like Michael Gove. Frost pointedly said on Sunday that he would not be changing the U.K.’s position that a deal must be one that is “compatible with our sovereignty and takes back control of our laws, our trade, and our waters.” He didn’t say “we will not be changing it,” he said “I will not be changing be it.”

The prime minister, too, is said by officials to be more resolute on Brexit than even Cummings or his ally Lee Cain, the Downing Street director of communications who also headed for the exit last week. “Their departure will not make any difference,” one U.K. official said. “The PM is the strongest voice in the room on Brexit and we will only get there if we can agree a deal which respects our sovereignty.” 

But there’s almost certainly an element of spin here: No. 10 will want to nip in the bud any narrative that suggests Johnson went soft on Brexit when Cummings left. Nigel Farage is already circling, ready to prey on the diehard Brexiteer votes that this could cost the Conservative party. And while Farage may seem like a sideshow in British politics, last year’s Brexit Party surge in the European elections is a reminder of how quickly he can generate a groundswell of support among the chunk of the electorate for whom Brexit is a matter of faith. 

Whatever the spin, Brussels isn’t expecting the U.K.’s negotiating strategy to change this week either. But, one EU official added, when it comes to the final decisions in Downing Street on whether to accept the deal on the table, the absence of Cummings and Cain could well “make a difference to rally political support in No. 10.” 

Most U.K. officials insist Brexit had nothing to do with last week’s power struggle and in truth, we can’t know for certain what Cummings or Cain would be arguing over the coming days and weeks, were they still in Downing Street.

But we do know the Vote Leave camp like to cultivate a reputation for toughness; for doing things commentators say they shouldn’t do; for unpredictable and explosive interventions. If those instincts are indeed dialed down a bit now that Cummings and Cain are gone, it can probably be chalked up as a good thing for those who want to see a deal done.  

This insight is from POLITICO‘s Brexit Files newsletter, a daily afternoon digest of the best coverage and analysis of Britain’s decision to leave the EU available to Brexit Transition Pro subscribers. To request a trial, email [email protected].

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