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Ministers blocked from working on Brexit plan by civil service

There has been a furious tussle between the Brexit department and the civil service negotiating team.

Brexit Ministers were blocked from starting work on the Government’s future Brexit plan by the civil service negotiating team who wanted to take charge, according to Whitehall sources.

I understand there has been a furious tussle between DExEU - the Brexit department - and the negotiating team over what goes in the document. So much so that nine different iterations of the White Paper have been produced.

Sources say earlier versions were consistent with the Prime Minister’s Mansion House speech, which was backed by the whole Conservative party. But negotiators didn’t think it would fly with the EU27 and a fight began over the document, which is now almost two weeks late.

As the two sides grappled over who was in charge, the White Paper ballooned to over 180 pages in length. But the negotiators won the battle for Downing Street approval.

I’m told that about a third of the content, especially concerning goods regulation and financial services was drastically altered in the last few weeks and it was a much slimmer plan that went to the Chequers summit at the weekend.

The details - to be published on Thursday - will be more palatable to the EU27 than the original plans. Just not quite so acceptable to large sections of the Conservative Party.