- Senior civil servants have accused government of “absence of realism” and “failure of diplomacy” over Brexit.
- Former head of the Foreign Office says Theresa May has “completely wasted” a year.
- Former top official in Treasury said “the national interest has been subordinated to [Conservative] party interest.
- Comments come after Cabinet row over the idea of a transition period after Brexit.
LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May has wasted an entire year preparing for Brexit due to Conservative infighting and a “failure of diplomacy,” senior civil servants have said.
Speaking to the Financial Times newspaper, crossbench peer and former head of the Foreign Office Lord John Kerr said: “It has been a completely wasted year while the Tories negotiated with themselves. There has been a sort of policy paralysis where Number 10 imposed a control freak freeze.”
Another crossbench peer and former head of the Treasury Lord Nicholas Macpherson said: “All too frequently in the last year the national interest has been subordinated to party interest.”
While there have been “signs of progress in recent weeks,” Lord Macpherson said, the “absence of realism in the government’s approach makes ‘no deal’ an evens chance.”
A former UK diplomat to the European Union told Business Insider that May’s government is handling Brexit talks in the “absolute worst way” possible.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was forced to deny rumours that he was about to resign over plans to continue EU migration as it is after Brexit on Sunday, and May’s spokesman said free movement will end in 2019 on Monday.
Theresa May has previously said “no deal is better than a bad deal,” and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has said that the UK would easily “survive” such an outcome, while the Chancellor Philip Hammond has warned against a “dangerous cliff edge” Brexit.
One senior official told the Financial Times that the UK is not even “starting from scratch” saying “it’s worse than that.”
The official said: “There has been a failure of diplomacy. We have had the prime minister talking about no deal being better than a bad deal and Boris Johnson suggesting we aren’t bothered about getting a deal. The mood on the other side of the Channel is awful.”
Criticism is focused on May’s former chiefs-of-staff Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, who allegedly made decisions without consulting the cabinet or leading ministers.
The two key aides to May were forced to resign after June’s general election after being blamed for the disastrous result for the Conservatives, in which the party lost its majority in parliament.
Ministers apparently were not informed much about May’s decision to announce triggering Article 50 in March 2017 at last year’s Conservative Party conference, or May’s “red line” of leaving the European Court of Justice.
An official close to the prime minister said it was “extraordinary self-flagellation or politically motivated criticism to suggest that we have wasted a year.”
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