Belfast Telegraph

Leaked paper reveals scathing view of UK ministers' performance in Brexit talks

The UK Government's performance in Brexit talks has been branded chaotic and incoherent in a leaked paper focusing on the views of top European officials.

The internal Irish government paper, obtained by RTE news, apparently documents EU figures' scathing assessments of key UK Cabinet members such as Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

The confidential document is based on a compilation of political reports from Irish embassies across Europe between November 6 and 10.

It claims that Brexit was barely mentioned during a meeting between Mr Davis and French ministers for defence and foreign affairs - something which was viewed as a wasted opportunity.

In another meeting, a minister in the Czech government described Boris Johnson as "unimpressive" but noted that at least he had "avoided any gaffes" during a visit in September.

The Czech deputy minister for foreign affairs Jakub Durr told officials "he felt sorry for British Ambassadors around the EU trying to communicate a coherent message when there is political confusion at home".

Meanwhile, during a meeting in Luxembourg, Ian Forrester, the British judge in the European Court of Justice bemoaned "the quality of politicians in Westminster".

He also wondered if the British public would view Brexit as "a great mistake" when they realised what leaving the EU entailed, according to the leaked paper.

The report was compiled just weeks after Theresa May told EU leaders in Brussels that focus would be on three key issues.

It highlights the significant concerns that will make it difficult to progress negotiations ahead of next month's summit.

The Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin has declined to comment on the report.

Downing Street defended the UK's preparations for Brexit and insisted there was a "good and constructive" relationship between London and Dublin.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "I don't comment on leaked documents. The Government is working hard on preparations for Brexit."

He added: "There is good and constructive working relationship with the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach."

There had been progress in talks on the issues with Ireland - particularly the common travel area - but there was "more work to be done, everybody accepts that", the spokesman said.

"Equally I think everybody is committed to ensuring a frictionless border," he added.

In the Commons Liberal Democrat former minister Tom Brake called for a debate on the back of the revelations.

In questions to the Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom, Mr Brake said: "H as the leader had time to read a leaked report from Irish embassies round the world which paint a rather unflattering picture of the UK Government's negotiating skills in relation to Brexit?

"They talk variously of feeling sorry for British ambassadors trying to present a coherent picture when there's confusion at home.

"Will the Leader make time available for a debate on the G overnment's incompetence and inability to deliver Brexit and increasing the risk of no deal?"

Ms Leadsom refused to grant a debate, saying: "I would encourage him to stop talking the country down, we are extremely optimistic about the prospects for the UK as we leave the EU and his constant pessimism is not helping."

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