LONDON — Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond admitted that he does not have much idea what Brexit negotiations will look like once Britain finally triggers Article 50 next year.
Speaking to Sky News on Thursday morning, Hammond said that while he knows the “direction” he and government want negotiations to take, he does not know “what the discussion is going to look like,” when those negotiations start in March or April 2017.
Discussing his first Autumn Statement and the country’s post-Brexit economic future with Sky’s Sarah Jane Mee, Hammond said: “We know exactly what direction we’re going in. But of course, what we don’t know, none of us know, is when we do get into the negotiations next March or April is how it’s going to proceed, at what pace, what the discussion is going to look like when we start having a negotiation.”
Hammond continued, saying that “by definition a negotiation isn’t just about what we want and where we want to end up. It’s about where we get to in a discussion with the parties on the other side of the table.”
Now obviously Hammond’s admission is not akin to him saying that the government is clueless about Brexit — as some have suggested — but it does confirm suspicions that Downing Street might not have quite as clear a plan as might be hoped on Brexit.
Prime Minister Theresa May and her government have repeatedly said they will not provide “a running commentary” on Brexit plans, citing the desire to maintain a strong negotiating position. This stance has drawn criticism from across the political spectrum, with numerous commentators suggesting that the government’s refusal to discuss its plan is a means of hiding the fact that it doesn’t actually have one.
That is particularly true when it comes to the so “Great Repeal Bill,” which will transpose all European Union Law into UK legislation. Chaos reportedly reigns when it comes to this bill, according to The Times.
An unnamed legal source with vast experience of putting together legislation said that the Department for Exiting the European Union, headed by MP David Davis, had the “wrong seniority, the wrong levels of experience, the wrong skillset” to carry out the bill. He added that the department does not have “the faintest clue” what it is doing.
This development comes just a week after a new report by the Institute for Government accused the government of being “chaotic and dysfunctional” when it comes to Brexit planning. One part of the independent group’s report claimed that the sheer workload of delivering Brexit presents an “existential crisis” to some Whitehall departments.
Brexit means Brexit, but no one — including the chancellor — seems to have any idea what that actually means.