'Useful filler' with a 'purposefully bland title': PR pros on PM's Brexit White Paper

PR and public affairs experts say that the Government's White Paper on Brexit is a "useful filler" that provides little extra detail - with one commenting on its "purposefully bland" title.

White Paper does not provide much colour, PRs say
White Paper does not provide much colour, PRs say

The Government yesterday published the 77-page document The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union.

It follows a much-anticipated - and "well-executed" speech from Prime Minister Theresa May last month, in which she elaborated on her plans for Brexit, having been criticised by many for having provided insufficient detail to the public previously.

George McGregor, UK managing partner and group head of public affairs at Interel, and formerly a special adviser to a Labour Scotland secretary, commented that the document's title was "purposefully bland and designed to move away from the notion of confrontation and play to the Brussels audience who will poring over every line".

He said: "The White Paper itself is a plagiarism of the PM's Lancaster House speech, which was the defining moment of the process so far, putting meat on the bones of the Government's plans after months of the asinine 'Brexit means Brexit' soundbite.

"There is little new in the document on the issues where our clients are looking for some certainty."

"The Prime Minister wants a comprehensive free-trade deal, an agreement on customs and frictionless trade with the EU. But can she deliver?"

James Bethell, founder and MD of Westbourne Communications, and a former Conservative parliamentary candidate, said the Prime Minister was displaying "an optimistic outlook", having been "undoubtedly buoyed" by the victory of pro-Brexit Donald Trump in the US presidential election.

He said: "She is creating a strong sense that she is marching with history. The aspirational tone and confidence of the 12-point White Paper reinforces the impression that she is in control of events.

"The truth is that Britain remains the junior partner in a bitter and protracted negotiation with our EU partners. She needs something to fill the gaps before negotiations start in earnest, and the White Paper is some helpful filler."

Simon Whitehead, managing director of H+K Strategies' UK energy and industrials practice, agrees that the White Paper "simply reaffirms the priorities Theresa May outlined in her speech a few weeks ago".

And with the path now clear for May to invoke Article 50 before the end of next month, Whitehead said: "Companies that have not yet established their narrative on Brexit and their approach to government should be seeking to do so quickly."

Will Walden, formerly Boris Johnson's comms chief and now UK head of public affairs at Edelman, said the White Paper "told us little that's new", but was interesting for two elements of May's foreword.

He said that the commons vote earlier this week on Article 50 "gives May cover to say 'move on'".

"She acknowledges division – essentially 'it happened, we’re healing, respect each other’ but also she dismisses it, essentially 'it's over, unify, the people want us to get on with it'," he said.

"What's most striking is some of the soaring campaign rhetoric – 'so much to offer Europe, so much to offer the world... a brighter future... a better Britain... stronger... fairer.. more global'. She stops just short of 'our independence day'," Walden noted, saying that having supported 'remain' in last June's referendum, May has "come a long way in a few short months".

Separately, it emerged this week that the Prime Minister's spokesperson and deputy spokesperson are leaving Number 10.

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