6 Nov 2018

How will government sell a Brexit deal? These plans offer a clue

Political Editor

There had been plans for today’s Cabinet to be the one that signed off the Brexit deal and there are signs (see earlier blog) that the decisive Cabinet might not be far off.

So, for your interest, here’s are some proposals drafted by a Comms official in Whitehall on how the plan, if and when it lands, should be sold.

I should say that a government spokesman says “it doesn’t represent government thinking” and adds: “You would expect the government to have plans for all situations – to be clear, this isn’t one of them.”

It should be said that this proposal envisaged an EU summit earlier than seems possible and envisaged today’s Cabinet signing off on the deal.

But there is the authentic whiff of a Whitehall Comms official about all the proposals for themed announcements and peppering the airwaves and newspapers with business leaders backing the deal.  The proposal also suggests overseas leaders might make supportive noises and speculates that “the Japanese PM (might) tweet support.”

It talks of a Prime Ministerial national tour the week before the Commons votes, explainer documents from the Cabinet Office which would compare the deal to “no deal.” The proposal also suggests
that supportive voices in the regions could also be lured out such as Andy Street and Andy Burnham.

The proposal suggests that the Commons debates ahead of the vote could start with the Chancellor speaking on the economic implications of the deal. Subsequent themes would be immigration with international voices tapped up to support the good news for the flow of global talent.

Four days shy of the vote and the theme would be spending and NHS funding (presumably a nod towards the message on the side of the Vote Leave bus), according to this note. The next day’s theme is earmarked in the proposal as  the Union of the United Kingdom.

The proposal suggests specific dates for the Brexit Secretary and the Foreign Secretary to appear on BBC Question Time and Marr respectively. There’s a Theresa May/David Dimbleby interview slotted in the plan for the eve of the Commons vote in this proposal.

Of course, a lot of people in Whitehall will be working on plans and they remain fluid until signed off. As I said, a senior government spokesman insisted this is not their plan.

But it suggests the business community being lashed to the project of selling any deal to a public no. 10 would then like to pressurise MPs to back her. We may not have long to wait to see the real hard sell unfold before us.