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‘It’s not a good deal’: Email blunder reveals doubts within the CBI about Theresa May's draft Brexit agreement

The Confederation of British Industry claims to be the 'Voice of Business'. Before the EU referendum, the vast majority of the 190,000 companies who are its members wanted Britain to remain in the EU.

But on Monday the CBI gave a warm welcome to the prime minister who plans to lead Britain out - and the draft deal she has negotiated.

The Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn said: “It's not perfect, it's a compromise, but it's progress. It takes us back from the cliff edge, avoids no deal, charts potential path to future frictionless trade deal. That is progress, we should not go backwards."

Today the government and the EU updated their vision of their future relationship.

The political declaration is aspirational, lacks detail and isn't legally binding. The CBI issued a statement, welcoming it.

Josh Hardie, the CBI's Deputy Director General said "It appears that we're on the cusp on a much-needed agreement.

“This shows that a deal can be done and businesses across the continent will be watching this weekend's EU Summit closely.”

It added that “the progress made is a credit to both sets of negotiators. But hard work lies ahead“.

But the CBI also inadvertently sent ITV News internal emails which highlight a difference between the confederation's public views about the political declaration and those held inside the organisation.

The CBI's Head of EU Negotiations, Nicole Sykes, argued there was ”no need to give credit to negotiators I think, because it’s not a good deal."

The CBI's Head of EU Negotiations told her colleague that it is 'not a good deal'. Credit: ITV News

The CBI's Head of News, Chris Grummett responded "Have left the credit in given we “want” this to go through“.

The quotations marks around the word 'want' suggest doubts.

The CBI's Head of News replied saying 'we want this to go through'. Credit: ITV News

In a statement the CBI says: “It’s absurd ITN has reproduced a private debate in the full knowledge that it is not the CBI’s position.

"Responding to significant announcements inevitably involves a step-by-step process, testing different viewpoints before arriving at a final, public statement.

“The CBI and our members have been clear. The deal’s not perfect, it involves compromise, hard work lies ahead but right now it is the best chance of protecting jobs and growth.”

In a sense it should not come as any great surprise that senior staff within the CBI have misgivings about supporting the political declaration.

It contains no commitment to frictionless trade. The draft agreement removes the uncertainty that businesses hate - but only until the end of 2020.

Thereafter, the UK's trading relationship - which will help shape our future prosperity - could end up being very close but may end up being very distant.

The CBI would prefer Britain to stay in the Single Market and the Customs Union - we are leaving both.

The organisation is backing Theresa May’s deal even if it considers it to be a bad deal - because it is better than no deal - which the CBI believes would be disastrous.