Geoffrey Cox, the lawyer who successfully defended former Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush in his three-week corruption trial in 2014, was proclaimed as the “star” of the U.K. Conservative Party Conference last week after a rousing pro-Brexit speech that had some British commentators hailing him as a potential prime minister.
Mr. Cox, who was appointed attorney general in the U.K. in July, urged the Conservative party to unite and embrace the opportunities of separation from the European Union.
“We need not fear self government,” he told delegates at the party conference in Birmingham, where he gave the warm-up speech prior to Prime Minister Theresa May’s address.
With the Conservative party fractured by infighting over the terms of its exit from Europe and the possibility of an economically damaging “no deal” departure from the single market, Mr. Cox sounded a rare optimistic note.
Mr. Cox said sacrifice and pragmatism were necessary to achieve the “precious prize” of Brexit.
In a speech peppered with theatrical flourishes, familiar to anyone who followed Mr. Bush’s trial, Mr. Cox quoted both the Rolling Stones and John Milton, to urge the Conservative Party faithful to help Ms. May get her Brexit deal across the line.
“We have to be grown up about it,” he said, acknowledging that the U.K. would not get everything it wants from the negotiations.
“We must resolve to put aside our differences and unite behind the prime minister to ensure the decision of … June 23, 2016, is not set at nought by those who would have us remain in the European Union.”
Mr. Cox, one of the U.K.’s best-known barristers, ended his speech by quoting from Milton’s “Areopagitica.”
“Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant nation rousing herself like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks. Methinks I see her as an eagle mewing her mighty youth, and kindling her undazzled eyes at the full midday beam.”
While his oratory is familiar to Cayman Islands audiences from both Mr. Bush’s trial and the earlier Eurobank trial, the speech was seen as a “breakout” in the U.K., with several papers proclaiming him the new voice of Brexit. The Times hailed a “performance so dazzling he was in danger of overshadowing the main act.”
The Daily Telegraph wrote an effusive column under the headline “Move over, Boris Johnson, the Conservatives have a new Brexit champion.”
Even the pro-European Union Guardian newspaper was impressed with his delivery, if not his message.
Columnist Anne Perkins wrote, “Cox’s thing is defending flimsy cases, and as he strode round the platform declaiming sonorously, like Rumpole on a particularly outrageous brief, it was easy to see why they pay him so well.”
Asked by The Times about the potential for a future leadership bid, Mr. Cox insisted he was not interested in being prime minister.
“I am a jobbing lawyer,” he told the newspaper.