Government ‘too slow’ providing departments with Brexit resources

9 Feb 18

The government has been too slow to allocate adequate resources to departments dealing with Brexit, a Public Accounts Committee report has said.

Civil servants are grappling with at least 313 work streams in preparation for the UK to leave the European Union, the parliamentary watchdog found.

But the Department for Exiting the European Union and the Cabinet Office did not “have a robust enough plan to identify and recruit the people and skills needed quickly”, the PAC stated in a report out on Wednesday.

“It is one thing to identify the amount of work required to deliver Brexit. It is quite another to do it,” PAC deputy chair Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said. 

“It is concerning that government departments still have so far to go to put their plans into practice.”

The report added: “Of the 300 plus Brexit ‘work streams’ across government, DExEU considers that around half are top priority and that about 20 of those need to move more quickly.”

Clifton-Brown said although the DExEU and the Cabinet Office had accepted that the “pace of work must accelerate”, the “real world will not wait for the government to gets its house in order”.

The DExEU and Cabinet Office came under fire from the PAC for not having a “credible plan” regarding recruitment of the skills needed to carry out important Brexit projects.

The report said: “The civil service faces long-standing capability challenges and projects too often go ahead without departments having the right skills in place.”

The committee suggested Brexit was a chance to “rebuild skills that have been lost in recent years as the civil service has shrunk”.

It also called for greater transparency from DExEU, the Treasury and Cabinet Office on the progress being made towards preparing for Brexit, saying there was a “paucity of information in the public domain”.

“We need to know what the costs are of delivering Brexit and expect government to be open about this,” the committee report stated.

The PAC has recommended the government provide it with an update on progress on the 313 work streams before 1 June 2018 and on recruiting the necessary skills.

In response to the report a DExEU spokesperson said: “We have repeatedly set out that we are determined to continue recruiting the brightest and the best talent from the public and private sectors and the capability of all departments is regularly reviewed.” 

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