Downing Street has lambasted the consultancy firm behind a leaked memo that claimed Theresa May has no Brexit strategy and that her Cabinet is deeply divided over what to do next.
A furious No10 said that Deloitte, the company behind the document, was “touting for business” rather than speaking for the Government in any way.
The Prime Minister’s official spokeswoman launched a scathing attack on the firm after the publication of the “unsolicited” memo by one of the firm’s consultants.
The document, leaked to the Times, claimed that 30,000 extra civil servants would have to be hired, and that ministers were so divided that a common position was unlikely before Article 50 is triggered in late March.
It also claimed that May’s government was putting its own political future ahead of the UK economy, and that there were likely to be 500 separate Brexit projects bogging down Whitehall.
The PM’s spokeswoman slammed the memo has having “no credence”, stressing it was not commissioned by the Government.
“It’s an unsolicited document that has had nothing to do with Government at all. It has not been commissioned by the Government.
“It hasn’t been distributed widely across Government. It does seem as though this is a firm touting for business, aided by the media.
“I struggle to understand how one individual who has never met the Prime Minister or any members of her team can then decide that the timetable is false or different.”
In a statement, Deloitte said:
“This was a note intended primarily for internal audiences.
“It was not commissioned by the Cabinet Office, nor any other government department, and represents a view of the task facing Whitehall. This work was conducted without access to No.10 or input from any other government departments.”
No.10 did concede that the previous Cameron administration had commissioned a “discrete” piece of work on Brexit from several consultancy firms, including Deloitte. But the details of that previous document are unclear.
Eurosceptic Tory MEP Dan Hannan was unimpressed.
But other pro-Brexiteers said No.10 couldn’t really complain.
And one of the Times journalists who wrote the story defended it.
Europhile Tory former Cabinet minister Ken Clarke said that even if the new memo was not an official document, “the Government at the moment does not have an agreed strategy” on Brexit.
“That’s not surprising, that’s not a criticism. It wasn’t considered by people on either side of the argument in the run-up to the referendum, nor was it debated in the run-up to the referendum,” he told BBC Radio 4’s World at One.
He added that it would take “a good six months to get the right policy which minimises the damage and actually deals with the real world of how we can best manage our future relationships” with the EU and the rest of the world.
Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said: “Whatever the purpose of this memo, it is absolutely right about two things.
“First, the Government are in a mess over Brexit and do not have a plan.
“Second, the way Theresa May is handling this process shows that, just like her predecessor, she is putting the interests of her party before those of her country.”