LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — Dominic Raab, who resigned as Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit minister on Thursday, is a smooth-talking former lawyer with a black belt in karate and poorly disguised political ambitions.
A 44-year-old graduate of both Oxford and Cambridge and the son of a Jewish Czech father who fled the Nazis, Raab became involved early on in the Arab-Israeli conflict, working with a former Palestinian negotiator of the Oslo peace process in the West Bank.
After joining the Foreign Office in 2000, he turned into a critic of human rights violations in Russia, drawing on family accounts of Communist-era repression in former Czechoslovakia.
Capping things off, he has worked in Brussels deciphering complex international trade law, and in London focusing on human rights at the justice ministry.
This wealth of personal experience and expertise has made him one of the favorites to one day succeed beleaguered Theresa May as Conservative Party leader — and prime minister.
Asked in April — while he was still housing minister — if he could imagine leading his party in national elections, Raab replied: “I don’t get drawn into that because I think it is unprofessional.”
For a man seasoned in diplomacy, it was as open an admission of grand political designs as Raab could make.
Yet his sparkling career began looking dimmer from the moment May picked him to succeed David Davis as Brexit minister in July.
Davis quit in protest at May’s bid to keep closer UK-EU trade relations once Brexit becomes a reality in March.
With Raab’s mistrust of the European Union an open secret, May took the unusual step of wresting the job of leading the talks with Brussels away from her new Brexit pointman and assigning them to a senior civil servant.
Raab became a Brexit minister in charge of everything but the actual negotiations.
It was a personal and political frustration, leaving him unable to stop the plan May ended up coming up with, and which the entire cabinet “collectively” endorsed at a marathon meeting on Wednesday.
In his resignation letter, which he also posted on Twitter, Raab said the draft withdrawal agreement betrayed the “trust” of Britons who voted to leave the EU in 2016.
His immediate future is uncertain, although Raab may want to forget the frantic final days that led up to the draft’s agreement and his denouement.
Raab went viral on social media for admitting at a conference that he “hadn’t quite understood” the importance of the cross-Channel port in Dover to the UK economy.
Dover handled 17 percent of Britain’s entire international trade last year, a figure that threatens to plummet under a no-deal Brexit scenario Raab had said he does not much fear.
Making matters worse, Raab appeared to suggest that he had only recently discovered this “peculiar geographic economic entity” of his country.
The moment might not be quickly forgotten, with a writer for Britain’s Private Eye satirical magazine tweeting: “Raab resigns, presumably to spend more time with a children’s atlas.”