Slapping Boris down just reveals a riven government

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The FT is reporting this morning that Boris Johnson has had a firm slap on the knuckles from Number 10 for suggesting that the UK may invoke Article 50 next year and so leave the EU in 2019. Apparently such speculation is not allowed by Theresa May.

This should worry people, for three reasons. First, given that the government is committed to leaving the EU and Article 50 is the only way to do that saying that the Foreign Secretary cannot talk about it indicates the most massive lack of trust in him. This suggests far too much power is being concentrated in Number 10.

Second, the rebuff is absurd: if the UK is to leave the EU before the 2020 election then Article 50 has to be invoked next year. It's extremely odd to waste political capital denying something that seemingly has to happen.

Third, if the glaringly obvious cannot be talked about when it comes to Brexit then imagine how little we will be told about the actual negotiations by Number 10. Thankfully leaks from 27 other sources are likely to fill in the gaps. If Theresa May thinks she has real control of this process she us likely to be seriously mistaken.

All if which suggests that we have a government that is paranoid about its main task in hand, lacks confidence in its senior ministers and is riven from top to bottom before the hard work really starts. If the Tories survive this process intact it will be astonishing.