Government rejects leaked memo’s Brexit claims

The government says it “does not recognise” a leaked memo’s claim that it has no overall plan for Brexit.

A spokesman said the “unsolicited document” came from an external accountancy firm and had “no authority”.

Obtained by The Times, it wa

 

And it highlights “divisions within the cabinet” over Brexit strategy.

rns Whitehall is working on 500 Brexit-related projects and could need 30,000 extra staff.

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Prime Minister Theresa May hopes to invoke Article 50 – beginning the formal two-year process for leaving the EU – by the end of March next year.

The government said the leaked memo – entitled “Brexit Update” of 7 November – had been written by an unnamed consultant and was not a Cabinet Office document, as reported in earlier versions of this story.

The prime minister’s spokeswoman called it an “unsolicited document, not commissioned by the government or distributed widely across government”.

She added that someone from the accountancy firm Deloitte had produced it and “the individual is not working for the Cabinet Office on this”. The person had never been inside 10 Downing Street and had not engaged with officials since Theresa May had become prime minister, the spokeswoman said.

‘Worst case plans’

The spokeswoman said Deloitte had been part of a team which worked on a specific piece of work after the referendum result, but this had been commissioned by David Cameron, and things had changed since then.

She added that the government did not recognise what was in the memo, which criticises Mrs May, who it says is “acquiring a reputation of drawing in decisions and details to settle matters herself” – an approach it describes as being “unlikely to be sustainable”.

The document also identifies cabinet splits between Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Brexit Secretary David Davis and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox on one side, and Chancellor Philip Hammond and Business Secretary Greg Clark on the other.

It says: “Every department has developed a ‘bottom-up’ plan of what the impact of Brexit could be – and its plan to cope with the ‘worst case’.

“Although necessary, this falls considerably short of having a ‘government plan for Brexit’ because it has no prioritisation and no link to the overall negotiation strategy.”

The memo also says big businesses could soon “point a gun at the government’s head” to secure what they need to maintain jobs and investment.

The leak comes after Japanese car manufacturer Nissan said it had been given “support and assurances” over trading conditions once Britain leaves the EU.

Former Conservative Chancellor Ken Clarke, a prominent supporter of the UK staying in the European Union, told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One said of the memo: “I think it’s probably entirely accurate. It rings very true.”

He added: “It’s going to take a good six months to work out how to manage the damage [from Brexit].”

Meanwhile, shadow chancellor John McDonnell has said the government’s “shambolic” approach to Brexit is failing to equip the UK economy for leaving the EU.

In a speech, he described the chancellor as isolated from cabinet colleagues and “too weak” to make Brexit a success.

However, Mr McDonnell said Labour would not attempt to block or delay the triggering of Article 50 in Parliament.

“To do so would put Labour against the majority will of the British people and on the side of certain corporate elites, who have always had the British people at the back of the queue,” he said.

The government is appealing against a High Court ruling that Parliament should have a say before the UK invokes Article 50. The hearing is due to begin at the Supreme Court on 5 December.

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