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GOVERNMENT departments have been “too slow” to begin practical preparations for Brexit with only 14 months to go, a parliamentary report published today warns.
Whitehall has still not reprioritised its work to be ready for Britain leaving the EU on March 29 2019, the Commons public accounts committee (PAC) report says.
Urgent action is needed to recruit staff, streamline decision-making and cut back on other commitments, the committee adds.
Neither the Department for Exiting the EU nor the Cabinet Office has a “credible” plan to recruit the skilled people needed to deliver Brexit, the report finds.
It warns: “The [real] world will not wait for the government to get its house in order.”
PAC deputy chairman Tory MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said Brexit was “a byzantinely complicated task with the potential to become a damaging and unmanageable muddle.”
Departments “do not have the technical, project or senior leadership capacity for Brexit alongside all their other planned activity.”
Brexit Secretary David Davis’s department has identified 313 separate “workstreams” which will need to be completed and has focused on ensuring plans to deal with them are up to scratch, the report says.
But Department for Exiting the EU permanent secretary Philip Rycroft told the committee in December that there was “a long road to go” to turn some of the plans into reality.
The committee calls on government to provide a formal update by June 1. It says the department should publish details of the workstreams by April so MPs can scrutinise progress.
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, it adds.
All departments should review their wider commitments by March this year and determine which must be ditched or delayed to lighten the load for preparing for Brexit, says the cross-party committee.
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