Theresa May’s government has been “too slow” to commence preparations to get Britain ready to leave the EU, according to a damning report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee.
The report found that Whitehall has not yet reprioritised its workload to be ready for Brexit day in 14 months’ time. However, there are still not enough resources at disposal to prepare for Brexit.
"It is critical that the civil service has the right people, skills and resources to manage exiting the EU. Yet allocation processes have been too slow; the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) and the Cabinet Office do not have a robust enough plan to identify and recruit the people and skills needed quickly. DExEU must pick up the pace of this work and move other departments on to getting things done," the report said.
The chairman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, Conservative pro-Brexit MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, said that "The government has identified over 300 work streams to complete as a consequence of the UK’s departure from the EU—a byzantinely complicated task with the potential to become a damaging and unmanageable muddle.
"The committee has called for these work streams to be published by April, with a timeline of actions, so that Parliament is able to keep track of the government’s progress in its preparedness to leave the EU.
“It is concerning that government departments still have so far to go to put their plans into practice. [The] real world will not wait for the government to get its house in order,” he said.
He added: "There is much at stake and we expect our committee, Parliament and the public to be kept meaningfully informed on what progress is being made, and at what cost."
Secretary for DExEU, Philip Rycroft told the committee last December that there was “a long way to go” to turn some of the plans into reality.
In addition to the committee calling for the government to publish details of the workstreams by April, they have also urged them to provide them with a formal update by June.
Sensitivities about the negotiation process “must not be used as an excuse for keeping the public and Parliament in the dark” about how preparations are going, MPs said in the report.
“Departments have still not faced up to the need to reprioritise existing activity to make space for Brexit,” said the report. “It is clear that prioritisation has not been undertaken with the speed or on the scale needed and we have seen no evidence that departments have stopped any significant work.
“This is worrying as departments do not have the technical, project or senior leadership capacity for Brexit alongside all their other planned activity.”
Neither DExEU nor the Cabinet Office have a “credible” plan to recruit the skilled people needed to deliver Brexit, the report found.
A government spokesperson said: “The government is committed to ensuring that the right skills and resources are available across all departments to deliver a successful Brexit.
“And 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.”