Westminster aped TV farce The Thick Of It today after a Tory minister appears to have been interrupted at a hearing – by news of his own demotion.
The jingle of the Sky News phone app alert could be heard faintly as Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab faced questions from the Commons Brexit Committee.
The only Sky News app alert received in the same 10-minute period by this reporter stated: “Theresa May announces she will lead negotiations to leave the EU, sidelining new Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab.”
It came after the Prime Minister announced she is taking personal control of talks with Brussels – two years after Britain voted to leave.
Mr Raab, who insisted he knew about the statement in advance, voted Leave and was appointed to his Cabinet job two weeks ago when David Davis resigned.
But now Mrs May has announced she’ll lead talks with Brussels herself, and Mr Raab will be her deputy.
Mrs May said: “The Department for Exiting the EU will continue to lead on all of the Government’s preparations for Brexit: domestic preparations in both a deal and a no deal scenario, all of the necessary legislation, and preparations for the negotiations to implement the detail of the Future Framework.
“I will lead the negotiations with the European Union, with the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union deputising on my behalf.”
Jenny Chapman, Labour’s Shadow Brexit Minister, said: “Dominic Raab has been sidelined by the Prime Minister before he has even had the chance to get his feet under the table.”
The Tory Cabinet minister admitted “the Prime Minister suggested it to me”.
But he insisted the power grab was simply a “shifting of Whitehall deck chairs” adding: “There’s no tension between us, I think that’s clear”.
Olly Robbins, the top civil servant leading Brexit talks, said he “doubted” Mrs May would be meeting the EU’s Michel Barnier herself.
“The key interlocutor for Mr Barnier is the Secretary of State,” he said.
But furious leave-backing Tory Craig Mackinlay said he had been “misled” because “quietly, somewhere, there was a coup d’etat going on” within government.
Meanwhile Mr Raab was forced to insist the government will ensure “adequate food supplies” after Brexit.
He refused to say if the government was stockpiling food in the event of ‘no deal’, saying only: “We will set this out in the technical notices… It would be wrong to describe it as the government doing the stockpiling.”