There’s little love for Brexit and its backers in the Alps this week.
Brits may have the second-highest number of delegates at the annual gathering of the global elite here in Davos, but Davos has an answer for their Brexit entreaties: meh.
The Global Britain and “GREAT Britain” campaign push got off to a bad start when Liam Fox and his Department for International Trade tried to shop around the idea of Great Britain themed events. They got a clear “no” from one of the most visible companies here in Davos, M&G Investments, when they pitched the idea of a partnership. M&G has massive EU-based business. Dow Jones eventually took the bait and is doing an event with Fox.
Philip Souta, representing law and lobbying firm Clifford Chance, looks at the Brexit issue with dread: “Because it’s a black hole that sucks up the whole [U.K.] government.” Souta is convinced that the Brexit talks are not symmetrical, meaning the U.K. is doomed to a middling to bad outcome.
The star of this den of globalization devotees yesterday was Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who unveiled the renamed and revived Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal — the one Donald Trump pulled out of shortly after entering the White House last year. Today the power wattage will be emanating from French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who both give speeches.
Theresa May’s speech tomorrow risks being a sideshow by comparison. In a serious faux pas, May’s speech is scheduled to overlap with an informal meeting of “world economic leaders,” one of the participants of that meeting told POLITICO.
Nonetheless, forum delegates are looking for the British prime minister to deliver a real global pitch, instead of appealing to fractured domestic audiences. She will need to in order to combat the PR of EU leaders and ministers who are all singing from the same hymn sheet here: successfully pushing the idea that the EU is united and has momentum.
The unity is deep says Werner Hoyer, the head of the European Investment Bank. “Nobody has ever brought the Europeans closer together than [David] Cameron and Trump,” he said.
Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told POLITICO’s Davos Confidential podcast: “For U.K. this is topic No. 1. I think for Europe today, it’s topic No. 5 and No. 6.”
He gave a damning verdict of Britain’s multiple and shifting red lines in the negotiations: “At some point on the British side they will understand that you cannot have all those red lines and then still say we will be the trading hub of this globalized world but have very limited relation with the biggest trading bloc in the world [the EU]. I think the reality check is going to happen in the next months.”
Based on what POLITICO is seeing and hearing in Davos, the world’s elite want the reality check sooner rather than later.