2nd May 2017
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.)
And so these details are worrying, and 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.
My book “Brexit What Everyone Needs to Know” is forthcoming from Oxford University Press.