A leaked "Brexit update" memo from November 7th, obtained by The Times and BBC, showed that Prime Minister Theresa May was far from defining her Brexit negotiation strategy, despite calls from different industries for clarity on the issue.
"It may be six months before there is a view on priorities/negotiation strategy as the political situation in the UK and the EU evolves," the document said.
May has pledged to begin official negotiations with the EU next March, but the memo warns on "divisions within the Cabinet" that might make meeting that deadline harder.
The divisions are mostly between the three Brexit ministers – foreign secretary Boris Johnson, secretary of state for exiting the European Union David Davis and international trade secretary Liam Fox — and Chancellor Philip Hammond and business secretary Greg Clark.
"The Prime Minister is rapidly acquiring the reputation of drawing in decisions and details to settle matters herself — which is unlikely to be sustainable," the document said.
Business leaders and investors have repeatedly urged Number 10 to specify its Brexit plan so they can make investment decisions. Without clarity on the plan, such decisions could be put on hold and contract economic growth.
"Industry has two unpleasant realizations — first, that the Government's priority remains its political survival, not the economy — second, that there will be no clear economic-Brexit strategy any time soon because it is being developed on a case-by-case basis as specific decisions are forced on Government," the document said.
The justification in Number 10 seems to be that it is not seeking to replicate any deal that other countries have with the EU. "We are not going for an off-the-shelf solution," Prime Minister Theresa May said Monday at the Lord Mayor's Banquet.
Government departments are already seeing some of the impact from the vote to leave the European Union. There are 500 Brexit-related projects on the table and they are significantly undersized. "Expectations of increased headcount are in the 10-30,000 range," the memo read.
However, it is unlikely that the government would allow such a high number of new hires. Chancellor Phillip Hammond is presenting next week the Autumn Statement in which he is expected to focus on infrastructure investment, not on departmental operations.
In a statement Tuesday, May's office dismissed the memo's findings, saying it was "not a government report and we don't recognise the claims made in it."