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The role of Brexit secretary is perhaps the most talked about position in European politics these days. Stephen Barclay is the third MP to be given the seemingly impossible task of leading the UK into a reasonable deal with the EU. It’s hard to argue that he doesn’t have his hands tied.
Last week Dominic Raab stepped down from the responsibility, saying that he could not in good conscience support the terms of the proposed deal with the EU; a deal which was drafted up and released on Thursday night. Raab was one of seven MP’s to step down in reaction to the deal, leaving Theresa May hanging onto her leadership by a thread.
Next up to the Houses of Parliament ocky is Mr Barclay. Member of Parliament for North East Cambridge since 2010, Barclay is a strong member of the Leave camp. He was a Minister of State for Health up until his appointment as Brexit secretary on Friday evening. Officially he was the second person to be asked to take over after Michael Gove rejected the position, not that too many Britons would want the former Education secretary overseeing a deal given his record of underhanded tactics over the years.
Barclay was given the role most probably because of his loyalty to his party. Loyalty is, at this point in time, a seemingly rare factor of Conservative politicians. The backstabbing of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove amongst others in the last 24 months is some proof that they aren’t the ideal party to lead the nation through one of the toughest transition periods in its history; the way they are imploding from within backs this up even more. Barclays loyalty from the back benches of the House of Commons has been noted by many of his associates; making him a suitable candidate for the poisoned chalice role at the Department for Exiting the European Union.
Upon being given the role, Barclay tweeted his delight. His account read on Friday evening:
"Delighted to accept role at DExEU. We now need to keep up the momentum to finalise the Withdrawal Agreement & outline political declaration & deliver a Brexit that works for the whole UK. Looking forward to working with a talented team of ministers & officials to do just that."
His intention to "deliver a Brexit deal which works for the whole of the UK" could include going back to square one on the deal itself. The last deal fell at the first hurdle with little support from Theresa May’s cabinet. Creating and supporting a deal which will actually be accepted by the PMs inner deal will be the first of many steps for Barclay in his new role.
As was expected, Barclay received mixed messages upon his appointment. Liz Truss, Chief Executive to the Treasury and former departmental associate of Barclays, had plenty of optimism.
"Delighted my friend and neighbour @SteveBarclay has been appointed Brexit Secretary. Was star at Treasury."
Barclays new opposite number, Labour Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer, feels that the appointment will change nothing on the Brexit scene. Admittedly his reaction comment also included a dig at the Prime Minister, something which is a given in most political opinions these days.
“After two years of negotiation, the prime minister has failed to deliver a Brexit deal that can command the support of Parliament. A new face in the Brexit department will do nothing to bring this divided government back together."
This line of criticism is to be expected from the opposition, eager to have a shot at a snap election. Personally, that could be the only way to truly see a difference in the Brexit. Whether this occurs could be made much clearer in the coming days.
Stephen Barclay is not the first Brexit secretary, but he could well be the last Conservative one. His hands have been tied by the actions of his predecessors and unless his party firmly address the internal issues and knuckle down for a better deal for the country, Mr Barclay could well find himself in the shadow cabinet sooner rather than later.