Experts have said they agree with much of a leaked Brexit memo warning about the Government’s plan for quitting the European Union, arguing parts of the exit strategy is “chaotic and dysfunctional”.
The Institute for Government think-tank has spent months talking to Government departments involved in preparation for invoking Article 50, and has penned an analysis to “recognise some of the claims” that appear in the note leaked to the Times.
Downing Street has condemned Deloitte, the consultancy firm behind the memo that claimed Theresa May has no Brexit strategy, and that her Cabinet is deeply divided over what to do next. Deloitte said it was intended primarily for internal audiences.
The document 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.
The Institute for Government’s Joe Owen writes that his group has talked to the Department for Exiting the European Union among others, putting it in a position of knowledge. It thinks that if there is a plan, the Government isn’t telling anyone.
“While we may not recognise the numbers in this memo, we recognise some of the claims,” Owen writes, before spelling out four areas of concern:
1. Whitehall needs more resources
It says it is “misleading to talk of a ‘lack of trade negotiators’”, but fears Whitehall does not have “the capacity to deliver Brexit on top of everything else to which it is already committed”. It warns managing the “existential threat” with a cuts-hit civil service is “unsustainable”.
2. No one is planning far ahead enough
It warns of the “lack of publicly visible direction and secretive approach at the top”, with plans being made for days and weeks ahead rather than months. It adds: “Those leading Brexit in departments know little more than the general public – an Article 50 trigger some time by March 2017 and a two-year negotiating window.”
3. Brexit planning appears ‘chaotic and dysfunctional’
It cites the deal with carmaker Nissan where it has been “tight-lipped on priorities”, and suggests the Government has not adapted following many conversations with business. “We have heard that government is asking the same questions too often and failing to reflect any change of approach as a result of the answers given,” the note says. “From the outside, we are told, the process appears chaotic and dysfunctional.”
4. Silence is not a strategy
A failure to reveal the Government’s plan is “eroding confidence among business and investors”. “That silence also means there is no public discussion of the impressive work being done across government in a very complex and pressurised environment,” it says, pointing to Whitehall departments dealing with cuts of up to a fifth of their budget and at the same time as Brexit planning.