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'Grave concerns' over department's approach to Brexit

25 April 2018

The Public Accounts Committee report finds that given the scale of the Brexit task facing the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and its significant domestic policy agenda, we are alarmed that the Department has made virtually no attempt to re-order its priorities.

90% of staff needed for Brexit recruited

It is crucial that it recognises the importance of doing so, particularly as it moves from Brexit planning to implementation where the task is even greater.

The Department has recruited nearly 90% of the staff it needs to carry out its Brexit work in 2017–18 but we are concerned that the mix of staff it has recruited so far lacks the required level of experience and expertise to deliver a very challenging programme of work at pace.

As we reported in February 2018, the paucity of information in the public domain about what departments are doing to prepare for Brexit is undermining scrutiny of progress and we expect our Committee, Parliament and the public to be kept meaningfully informed on what progress is being made, and at what cost. The Department is a case in point.

Chair's comments

Comment from Committee Chair, Meg Hillier MP:

"The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy appears to be operating in a parallel universe where urgency is an abstract concept with no bearing on the Brexit process.

The Department is responsible for around a fifth of the work streams the Government must complete as the UK leaves the EU. It is an extremely important, challenging and time-sensitive workload.

Yet the Department told us it had not re-prioritised its overall programme of work, had not begun procurement for around a dozen essential digital systems and could not provide vital information about its workforce.

We have grave concerns about this apparent complacency, compounded by the lack of transparency on the Department's progress with what in some cases will be critical projects.

Sensitivities around negotiations with the EU must not be used as an excuse to keep taxpayers and Parliament in the dark. We urge the Government to provide us with a swift update on the issues raised in our report."

Further information

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