Dominic Raab, the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, has been in hot water for his late-dawning admission of the importance of the Dover-Calais route to the UK’s trade in goods.
Raab was speaking at a Tech Nation event in London. In an aside, he candidly admitted he had not previously fully appreciated the extent of how reliant the UK’s trade in goods is on the Calais to Dover route.
Here is the full quote:
“We want a bespoke arrangement on goods which recognises the peculiar, frankly, geographic and economic entity that is the United Kingdom. We are, and I [hadn’t] quite understood the full extent of this, but if you look at the UK, and how we trade in goods, we are super [?] reliant on the Dover-Calais crossing, and that is one of the reasons why – and there has been a lot of controversy on this – we wanted to make sure we have a specific and proximate relationship to the EU to ensure frictionless trade at the border, particularly for just-in-time manufactured goods, whether pharmaceutical goods or perishable goods like food”.
Raab’s political enemies seized on these words as indicating unfitness for his role, ignorance of British geography, failure to do his homework before committing to Brexit ideologically (he is, unlike Theresa May and Philip Hammond, a dyed in the wool Brexiteer), and so on.
Then again, you could say, from a Remain point of view: “better late than never”. Or, from a Brexit point of view, that this half-swallowed, fleeting “gaffe” is part of a cunning plan to persuade Tory dissenters to sign up to the Chequers plan – which is what Raab was advocating.
Or you could just say he was speaking in a relaxed and colloquial matter before a modest gathering of mostly tech entrepreneurs, whose focus is mostly software and services, not physical things, and was just being honest.
Or, yet again, this is an example of the ostensible self-deprecation that used (at least) to be characteristic of university dons professing ignorance of something they actually know a great deal about. (“I really hadn’t appreciated the full significance of Derridean deconstruction until I applied it to that which is not said in the texts of Jane Austen. Pass the port”).
Personally, I would be less sanguine than he expressed himself as being about the future of our AI sector, post-Brexit.
Perhaps Raab will be less candid in future. Politics is a murky business.