Someone tell the cabinet that silence is not a Brexit strategy

The public are frustrated with the government's opacity and internal turf wars, a new report suggests

Image: Zoe Norfolk

The Prime Minister needs to quickly clarify how she intends to reach an initial negotiation position on Brexit according to a new report out today.

The new analysis by the Institute for Government (IfG) looks at Whitehall’s readiness for the sheer volume of work it now faces to untangle the UK from its membership of the EU.

With Theresa May due to address the Conservative faithful next week at conference, the IfG warns that the ‘silence about how she intends to reach an initial negotiating position’ on Brexit ‘is proving problematic.’

It continues:

“She clearly stated that she will not be providing a ‘running commentary’ on Brexit negotiations; undoubtedly there will be aspects of the content of negotiations which need to remain confidential until they are agreed. But in the short term, Theresa May needs – at the very least – to clarify the process and timescales through which she intends her government to agree the UK’s initial negotiating position.

“In the absence of a clear plan, ‘Kremlinology’ and off-the-cuff remarks are filling the void. The current position of the outside world trying to divine the Government’s position from the personal musings of individual ministers is creating unhelpful uncertainty – frustrating those looking for an early exit, perplexing those with whom we have to negotiate, and unsettling those looking to do business with the UK.”

The report finds that UK taxpayers face having to pay out £65 million a year simply to ensure that a team is in place to plan for Brexit.

It notes that on the basis of Brexit Secretary, David Davis’s comments that an additional 320 members of staff will be needed in his department (bringing the total to 400); and if the new Department for International Trade modelled itself on trade departments of other countries, such as the US, it would need an extra 200 staff, together this would equate to around £65 million of extra sending a year.

Importantly, the paper notes that such additional staff ‘will be required simply to plan the Government’s approach to Brexit’ and ‘more will be required to undertake negotiations and deal with the consequences of leaving.’

The report warns also that ‘turf wars between ministers have wasted valuable time and energy’ as the new structures and Departments work out who is doing what. The Prime Minister needs to ‘move swiftly to stamp out potential turf wars between her Brexit ministers and make clear who does what.’

Dr Hannah White, Programme Director and co-author, of the report commented:

“Silence is not a strategy. The current situation – where we are left to interpret personal musings of individual ministers – is frustrating those looking for an early exit, perplexing those with whom we have to negotiate and unsettling those looking to do business in the UK.

The Prime Minister has sworn she will not give a running commentary on negotiations, but she needs rapidly to clarify how and when the Government intends to go about making decisions on Brexit”.

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward

See also: The EU won’t play ball on freedom of movement – just ask the Swiss

One Response to “Someone tell the cabinet that silence is not a Brexit strategy”

  1. Robert Petulengro

    If I ask very nicely and do not swear or do other silly things and PROMISE not to be beastly about Mr Corbyn or Mr Blair or indeed anyone else. And if I PROMISE not to open the EU sore, please would someone read the monographs on this site:
    They contain really spot on information about the EU in minute detail. Really if you read them you can actually talk sense without being shot down in flames.
    Of course, if you are an MP or someone who is really very busy indeed, you might like to read these digests of the monographs:

    This is a minefield – and the monographs show where the mines are laid.

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