As the photograph of a Tory aide's memo invites even more speculation, has the government’s silence on Brexit now become untenable?

The Chancellor Of The Exchequer Delivers His First Autumn Statement
If May's team has kept their cards close to their chest, one Tory aide hasn't been so careful with a memo (Source: Getty)

Sarah Olney, Liberal Democrat by-election candidate for Richmond Park, says Yes.

The British people have no cake and they certainly aren’t eating it. The scribbled notes spied in Downing Street – the public’s only way of learning what ministers’ plan is on the most important question facing the country in a generation – show that five months on from the referendum, this Brexit government is in chaos. There is no danger of damaging the government’s bargaining position, because it doesn’t have one.

While a poll showed 90 per cent of the public want to remain in the Single Market to avoid a £220bn black hole in our public finances, Prime Minister Theresa May pushes for a hard Brexit that Britain didn’t vote for. In Richmond Park alone, 5,000 financial services jobs would be endangered if Britain lost passporting rights to the world’s most lucrative market.

Tomorrow, Richmond Park residents can vote against hard Brexit by rejecting Zac Goldsmith and voting Liberal Democrat. Britain’s future is in their hands. An earlier by-election killed the poll tax. This by-election could kill hard Brexit.

Alex Deane, managing director at FTI Consulting, says No.

The May government’s determination not to “give a running commentary” on Brexit stands in stark and welcome contrast to recent media-focused administrations of both political colours.

It seems that Westminster can’t win. Care about the press and you’re spin obsessed. Focus on policy and you’re starving the public of information and failing to be transparent. We must trust the government to get on with the important task in hand, knowing as we do that revealing too much will undermine negotiations carried out on our behalf.

Sure, giving business a better sense of the broad direction might be welcome. But May’s team’s preference for action rather than words is the right one, and when it comes to international, multilateral treaty change, it’s the negotiation that counts, not bombast and pontificating in the media. Many in the media dislike their diminished role in the political process – which may explain rather a lot of the hostility to the government’s approach.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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