David Lidington: Global Britain = European Britain

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LONDON — From the beating heart of government to lockdown and long afternoons in rural England — this was not the year David Lidington was expecting.

Theresa May’s donnish former deputy and London’s longest-serving Europe minister (2010-16) was the quiet man at the heart of some of Westminster’s loudest Brexit battles and was briefly tipped to replace May as a caretaker prime minister just over one year — and a political lifetime — ago.

Lidington resigned from government ahead of Boris Johnson’s arrival in No. 10 last July and quit Westminster altogether when the U.K.’s general election was called in October after a 27-year parliamentary career.

For a history graduate with a passion for the Tudors, there are advantages to a slower pace of life during lockdown. “I’ve dug my Ph.D. notes out of the loft,” Lidington said with his characteristic bonhomie, speaking from his Buckinghamshire home. “I’ve always said a good knowledge of how the Tudor court operated is good practice for understanding how No. 10 is arranged.”

In those days, people who fell out of favor could have their heads chopped off. Now they work for think tanks. Lidington this month became chair of the influential defense and security-focused Royal United Services Institute — and he has not given up thinking through the historic ramifications of the task that once occupied his every waking hour: Brexit.

“I think that Boris Johnson is right to be emphasizing the importance of this task, of the United Kingdom finding a new role for itself in the world.”

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