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David Davis: Ireland’s Brexit scars could take a decade to heal

LONDON — Former Brexit Secretary David Davis has said it could take a decade to solve the Irish border crisis created by Britain’s departure from the EU.

Speaking to POLITICO’s Westminster Insider podcast, the Tory Brexiteer and former U.K. negotiator admitted both sides during the 2016 referendum campaign had underestimated the impact of Brexit upon the island of Ireland.

“I don’t think people saw all the outcomes there,” Davis said. “I think that’s a fair criticism of the overall debate.”

Davis said he accepts that many of the benefits of Brexit espoused by the Leave campaign have still to be realized, but that the COVID pandemic has largely been to blame.

“It’s largely recoverable,” he said. “I mean, Ireland’s going to take a long time. It’s going to take a decade to get right, I think … Maybe I’m wrong about a decade, but it’s going to take years.”

Davis suggested his former boss Theresa May had made strategic errors that allowed the Irish issue to dominate the debate, conceding too much ground to the EU on the sequencing of the Brexit negotiations in 2016.

“I was shut out, basically,” he said. “No. 10 was running a parallel policy. They’re all Remainers — you’d expect it.

“They took the view that being ultra-reasonable would deliver the result, and it didn’t. I’m not saying that somehow she was some sort of traitor to the cause — she wasn’t. It’s a mindset.”

Davis had harsh words too for the current prime minister, Boris Johnson — “I’ve called for him to go” — and for May’s predecessor, David Cameron, who he described as “one of those people who takes the ‘career’ view of politics.”

But he insisted that after 35 years in parliament, he’s enjoying life as a maverick backbencher as much as ever, and will stand to be an MP again at the next election.

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