The British government insisted Wednesday that it has a plan for Brexit, after a leaked memo prepared by a consultancy firm warned it could take another six months to agree its negotiating strategy.

The memo, produced by Deloitte on its own initiative, also said civil servants are struggling to cope with more than 500 Brexit-related projects and an extra 30,000 extra staff may be needed to handle the workload.

Published on the front page of The Times newspaper, the memo highlighted splits in Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet over the best way to implement the June referendum vote to leave the European Union.

Even though May intends to begin formal negotiations with Brussels by the end of March, and despite lengthy debate among officials, it said there was “no common strategy”.

May’s spokeswoman dismissed the memo, however, saying it was drawn up by an analyst with no preferential access to the government for a firm “touting for business”.

“We don’t recognise any of the claims made in the unsolicited memo prepared for an accountancy firm seeking to do business with government,” she told reporters.

The government has so far refused to outline what it wants from the negotiations with the EU, saying it will not give a “running commentary”.

Expressing frustration at the widespread media coverage the memo has received, May’s spokeswoman insisted on Tuesday: “We do have a plan.”

This involved creating the new Department for Exiting the European Union, which has a staff of 200 people, to “lead and coordinate these negotiations”, she said.

The government was working through “all the various elements of our membership of European Union, issue by issue” and talking to the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

She said that would create a “body of evidence, forming then the decisions on what our negotiating objective should be,” she said.

The memo suggests that although each government department has developed plans to cope with Brexit, “this falls considerably short of having a ‘government plan for Brexit’ because it has no prioritisation and no link to the overall negotiation strategy”.

It criticises the personal approach of May, a former interior minister who became prime minister after the referendum, accusing her of “drawing in decisions and details to settle matters herself”.

In a statement, Deloitte confirmed the memo was not commissioned by the government and was intended “primarily for internal audiences”.

“This work was conducted without access to No.10 or input from any other government departments,” it said.

The memo also suggests big businesses are expected to “point a gun at the government’s head” after the government assured carmaker Nissan that it would not lose out on investment after Brexit.

AFP

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