...As For­eign Of­fice war games No Deal

The Mail on Sunday - - News - By Glen Owen PO­LIT­I­CAL ED­I­TOR

THERESA May’s own diplo­mats have writ­ten off the chance of her strik­ing a deal with Brus­sels and are plan­ning for Brexit to be de­layed – and the chaos of No Deal.

With Mrs May fac­ing de­feat in t he Com­mons, se­nior For­eign Of­fice of­fi­cials held a se­ries of meet­ings over the past week to ‘wargame’ their po­lit­i­cal strat­egy.

Ac­cord­ing to a de­tailed ac­count of the meet­ings, the Prime Min­is­ter’s own diplo­mats ‘held their heads in their hands’ as they set out the likely pas­sage of events. Con­clud­ing the Gov­ern­ment was now in full ‘cri­sis mode’, the of­fi­cials de­cided:

A No Deal is now the ‘ de­fault plan­ning mode’;

It is now re­garded within White­hall as ‘highly likely’ that we will still be in the EU af­ter the sup­posed Brexit Day of March 29, with an ex­ten­sion of Ar­ti­cle 50 now the most prob­a­ble out­come;

Up to 20 per cent of For­eign Of­fice staff – 2,800 out of 14,000 – are to be re­moved from front l i ne work and t rans­ferred to Brexit du­ties;

All ‘proac­tive pol­icy-mak­ing’ is to be placed on hold.

The source painted an ex­tra­or­di­nary pic­ture of a Gov­ern­ment that has been paral­ysed by the po­lit­i­cal drama play­ing out in the Com­mons. ‘There were many heads in hands around the ta­bles – gal­lows hu­mour pre­vailed,’ the source said.

‘The sit­u­a­tion was de­scribed by a very se­nior civil ser­vant as am­a­teur hour with bells on.’

The source added: ‘The Gov­ern­ment is now ef­fec­tively in cri­sis mode. With up to one fifth of FCO staff be­ing with­drawn from front­line work, the ring-fenc­ing of key pri­or­i­ties means that some de­part­ments will face big­ger staff losses.

‘There is no clar­ity on what the pol­icy is, but No Deal is now the de­fault plan­ning as­sump­tion.

‘The sec­ond-level as­sump­tion is that Brexit will not hap­pen on March 29. But in truth no one has any idea what to do or what to ex­pect if the deal is re­jected.

‘All proac­tive pol­icy-mak­ing is on hold, as f or­ward plan­ning against such un­cer­tainty is recog­nised as im­pos­si­ble.’

Of­fi­cials in Ed­u­ca­tion, Jus­tice and Wel­fare have also been asked to take up new roles within weeks.

The sec­ond­ments are ex­pected to last at least six months. Jonathan Slater, per­ma­nent sec­re­tary at the De­part­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion, told staff the pri­or­ity was en­sur­ing ‘key ser­vices con­tinue to op­er­ate’ but other ar­eas of the de­part­ment’s work were likely to be moth­balled.

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