The real and worrying significance of the Downing Street dinner leaks

Ed: summarised, FT text and two links added:

Green writes:

“The real significance of the leaks from the Downing Street dinner between Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker is what the detail reveals about the UK’s lack of grasp about the process and issues of Brexit, and about how weak the arguments are which UK ministers are seeking to deploy.

“These details are telling, even taking due account of spin and bias.  These details are also such that they cannot have been invented (or even exaggerated) by the leakers.  (On these details see my thread on Twitter here, republished at my FT blog here.)”(FT)

The disturbing conclusion: not that the UK and EU disagree but that the relevant UK ministers do not (yet) know what they are doing

(FT) A thread of tweets were posted on Monday as a commentary on the reports of the dinner between the UK prime minister Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president . . .The ultimate source for the reports is the newspaper edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. In summary, the tweets below contend that, even taking full account of bias and spin, the reported details of the dinner conversation are worrying, regardless of one’s view of Brexit. The details show that neither Mrs May nor others have a grasp of the Article 50 process or have engaged with the issues. The disturbing conclusion is not that the UK and EU disagree but that the relevant UK ministers do not (yet) know what they are doing.

And so these details . . . should be worrying – regardless of one’s views on Brexit. In the UK, however, there will be pearl-clutching at the fact of the leaks, and attacks on the leakers.  Such responses are easier, one supposes, than dealing with the troubling detail.

There is one obvious way in which the UK government could avoid leaks about how badly prepared they are and about their poor grasp of the process and details. But they would prefer official secrecy instead.

And so UK voters will only find out about the strengths and weaknesses of the UK government on Brexit, based on what was said in Downing Street, by EU leaks to a German newspaper (published in full in the print edition and not online).

If Brexit is to be a success then the UK government needs to improve its grasp of process and the issues, and put forward arguments which are realistic.  That the government is evidently not (yet) doing so is the significance of the leaks.

But the messengers, and the message, will be criticised or waved away instead.


Green’s forthcoming book “Brexit What Everyone Needs to Know : Oxford University Press.