NICOLA Sturgeon has demanded the UK Government engages in "urgent and meaningful" discussion with the devolved administrations on the direction of the Brexit negotiations.

Her call came as Whitehall was said to be in “utter chaos” over its preparations for Brexit after the influential Commons Public Accounts Committee[PAC] suggested it was acting too slowly and with not enough transparency on progress and costs, raising a fear that the whole process could turn into a “damaging and unmanageable muddle”.

Ahead of two key meetings of the UK Cabinet “war committee” of senior ministers today and tomorrow to thrash out what Britain wants from its future relationship with the EU, the First Minister wrote to the Prime Minister, suggesting she was in acting in “direct contravention” of the terms of the intergovernmental Joint Ministerial Committee to agree on a “UK approach” to Brexit.

Ms Sturgeon wrote: “To date the discussions in the JMC have fallen far short of that ambition and of your own commitment when we met in July 2016 to ‘full involvement’. I expect that following the meeting of your Cabinet Sub-Committee there will remain full scope for the Scottish Government, and other devolved administrations, to influence the shape of the UK approach and objectives for negotiations.”

She added that in light of the timetable ahead of the March European Council, that “there must be urgent and meaningful discussion between us to try to agree a UK position and therefore enable our European partners to respond”.

The FM expressed frustration at Whitehall’s attitude towards the devolved administrations and insisted it was "unacceptable" that Mrs May and her senior colleagues in London were deciding on that UK-EU relationship without “meaningful engagement” with the devolved administrations.

After Downing St “categorically” ruled out the UK being in any customs union post-Brexit, she declared: "We're seeing the Government yet again put the interests of the Conservative Party ahead of the interests of the country.”

Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, has suggested people would be surprised at the level of unity there is at Cabinet level and promised “clarity” in the next few weeks on the UK Government’s approach to what it wants from the final Brexit deal.

She claimed Ms Sturgeon would have known about the UK Government’s general approach to Brexit from the PM’s speeches and insisted there had been “quite a lot of consultation with the devolved assemblies but I can understand Nicola would like to have more involvement; she always would. But I’m certain she was consulted before those speeches”.

Ms Rudd noted how there had been a “lot of picking over” about the term ‘customs union’ and pointed to how the Government had published a document last summer, setting out two possible options for a future customs arrangement or partnership with the EU post withdrawal.

“I hope in the next few weeks we will be able to give some clarity to people and let me reassure Nicola Sturgeon we will make sure we talk to her about it as well,” added the Home Secretary.

In other developments:

*the PAC said Government departments had been "too slow" to begin practical preparations to get the country ready for Brexit. It called for urgent action to recruit staff, streamline decision-making and cut back on other commitments, warning: "The real world will not wait for the Government to get its house in order."

Marytn Day, an SNP member of the committee, said: “It is utterly shocking there is no clear plan from the Tories and for people tasked with implementing Brexit for the Department; it is utter chaos.”

*Robert Chote, head of the Office for Budget Responsibility, said controversial draft official assessments of the possible cost of Brexit, which showed growth would be hit under the scenarios considered, should never have been kept secret and "in an ideal world" ministers would have planned to publish them.

*The British Chambers of Commerce have warned the PM business patience with the Cabinet's "continued division" on Brexit is "wearing thin" and urged Mrs May to urgently deliver a clear statement of what the Government wants.