‘Chaotic & dysfunctional’ Brexit plan impossible to deliver – think tank

Britain's Secretary of State for Departing the EU David Davis , Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox (R) © Peter Nicholls
Brexit could pose an “existential threat” to the British government because there is simply not enough time to complete the process before the deadline set by Prime Minister Theresa May, experts suggest.

According to an Institute for Government report, Brexit negotiations have come across as “chaotic and dysfunctional.”

Civil service departments, cut to the bone after years of Tory austerity, are now expected to cope with the extra task of managing Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, the report says.

“Whitehall has most of the technical skills required to deliver Brexit,” it reads.

“What Whitehall does not have is the capacity to deliver Brexit on top of everything else to which it is already committed.”

The warning comes after a special memo on Brexit developments by Deloitte was leaked on Tuesday, highlighting how the government had no plans for leaving the EU.

Downing Street rebuffed the document, saying it was “unsolicited” and had no connection to the government. Deloitte released a statement on Tuesday night confirming the paper had been put together “without access to No. 10 or input from any other government departments.”

The Times, which originally published the story, said “the statement was issued after pressure from the government and amid fears that the firm could be stripped of future contracts.”

Deloitte has a series of long-standing contracts with state departments, including the Cabinet Office.

“No 10 were coming down hard on Deloitte so there was a negotiated statement which balanced distancing the government from the memo without denying that it had been the subject of conversations,” a Whitehall source told the Times.

Foreign politicians have also piled on the criticism, accusing Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson of publicizing an “intellectually impossible” and “politically unviable” vision of post-Brexit Britain.

Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem told the British government not to expect continued free access to European markets after Brexit unless free movement of labor was kept on the agenda.

“I think [Boris Johnson] is offering to the British people options that are really not available. To say ‘we could be inside the internal market, keep full access to the internal market, but be outside the customs union’ – this is just impossible, it doesn’t exist,” he told BBC Newsnight.

“The opposite does exist. We have a customs union with Turkey but Turkey is not part of the internal market. So he is saying things that are intellectually impossible, politically unavailable, so I think he is not offering the fair approach that gives the British people a fair view of what is ahead.”

The warning came after Johnson implied in an interview that Britain would “probably” have to leave the EU customs union.