This Grauniad piece confirms all our worst suspicions about the utter uselessness of the May government, and (IMHO) Hammond in particular. David Davis comes out very badly, too.
“I think she believed that she could park Brexit as just something we will get done: ‘It has been decided. Now let’s move on, and let me tell you about the Theresa May vision of the future’ … what the masterplan was, she didn’t know – because Nick Timothy hadn’t formulated it at that stage.”
Declaration: this grieves me because I happen to know all these three personally - they are my exact contemporaries. The vacuity of May came as no surprise. Hammond was much more of a disappointment, a dismay that set in quite soon after the off, and was fully formed in twelve months. Unless Gove has (against all the evidence thus far) in fact pulled off some remarkable, practical Brexit-related measures that have yet to materialise at the docks and ports of the UK, I reckon history will be very unkind to Hammond for his self-evident passive sabotage of what could have been several years of purposeful, relatively inexpensive preparation.
Davis is perhaps more interesting. Ex SAS, he is one of several identifiable special-forces archetypes. Like all of them, he is totally self contained, self sufficient and self assured: and capable of serious application. Unlike some he is matey, flippant, and impulsive, sometimes acting fast and without much preparation, expecting speed - plus surprise! - and ability to wing it effectively, gunslinger style, to carry the day. There's sometimes a need for that in special forces actions: they don't always get much time to prepare.
But when you do have time (and by Heaven they did in 2016-2017), it's folly to crash in through the saloon doors and face down the other side like Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven. The EC was waiting for him, fully prepared - and long-time masters of the slowing-down tactic. What a prat.
So: a prat running the negotiations (we may discard Liam Fox utterly); Hammond, a highly intelligent saboteur; May, an empty vessel, grotesquely out of her depth but lacking the honesty to acknowledge it and disqualify herself. What a disaster.