Civil servants are setting out concerns about the Brexit process in emails intended to protect them if a future government inquiry reviews the effectiveness of the UK’s exit process from the European Union.
According to a report in the Spectator, civil servants in the Department for Exiting the European Union are setting out the problems of leaving the EU without a deal in official emails as evidence that could be used in their defence should a future Chilcot-style inquiry examine failings in the exit process.
The report comes as prime minister Theresa May today calls on the EU to be "imaginative and creative" as she prepares to make a £20bn offer to break the deadlock in the Brexit negotiations.
The PM will say "the eyes of the world are on us" when she delivers her eagerly-anticipated speech in the Italian city of Florence.
It is believed that May is proposing that the UK will continue to pay into the EU for up to two years after the official Brexit date of 30 March, 2019, and continue to abide by Brussels laws and regulations.
In return, Britain would retain access to the European single market and customs union – and expect to strike a major trade deal with the EU once it finally quits the bloc.
May will say that if an agreement can be reached "when this chapter of our European history is written, it will be remembered not for the differences we faced, but for the vision we showed".
She will add: "While the UK’s departure from the EU is inevitably a difficult process, it is in all of our interests for our negotiations to succeed… so I believe we share a profound sense of responsibility to make this change work smoothly and sensibly, not just for people today but for the next generation who will inherit the world we leave them.
"The eyes of the world are on us but if we can be imaginative and creative about the way we establish this new relationship… I believe we can be optimistic about the future we can build for the United Kingdom and for the European Union."
May will also insist that "Britain’s future is bright" outside the EU.
"Our fundamental strengths are considerable," she will say. "A legal system respected around the world; a keen openness to foreign investment; and enthusiasm for innovation; an ease of doing business; some of the best universities and researchers you can find anywhere; an exceptional national talent for creativity and an indomitable spirit."
Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, yesterday piled pressure on the prime minister by warning that Britain has "only one year left" to strike a deal.
He also said that any transition period would be impossible without a formal withdrawal agreement being reached.
"I am convinced that a rapid agreement on the conditions of the UK's orderly withdrawal, and a transition period, is possible," he said in a speech to the Italian parliament.
"For that to happen, we would like the United Kingdom to put on the table, as soon as next week, proposals to overcome the barriers.
"I repeat that an agreement on the orderly withdrawal is a precondition for any constructive and trustworthy discussion on our future relationship with the United Kingdom."