Government departments have been “too slow” to begin practical preparations to get the country ready for Brexit, a parliamentary report has warned.
Neither David Davis’s Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU) nor the Cabinet Office have a “credible” plan to recruit the skilled people needed to deliver Brexit, the report by the Commons public accounts committee found.
MPs on the committee warned that with just 14 months to go, Whitehall has still not faced up to the need to reprioritise its work to be ready for “Brexit day” in March 2019.
“[The] real world will not wait for the government to get its house in order,” their report stated.
The committee’s deputy chairman, Leave-backing Conservative MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, said Brexit had “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,” the report stated.
DExEU has identified 313 separate “workstreams”, but the department’s top civil servant, permanent secretary Philip Rycroft, told the committee there was “a long road to go” to turn some of the plans into reality.
The MPs’ report found DExEU has been “too slow” to ensure the plans are put into practice, warning that some “may not be sufficiently developed to enable implementation to start quickly”.
The committee called on government to provide a formal update by 1 June, and said DExEU should publish details of the workstreams by April so MPs can scrutinise progress.
SNP MP Martyn Day, a member of the committee, called its report “alarming” and claimed it revealed “utter chaos” in DExEU.
He said: “The UK government has identified a huge amount of work to be done to deliver Brexit, but is totally failing to act on that … Brexit is a shambles coming at us all, and the clock is ticking.”
Labour MP Ian Murray said: “Brexit will be a monumental distraction from every other issue – from healthcare to education to security – for years to come.
“Once again, today we have evidence of how completely unprepared the government are for delivering it.”
Yesterday the head of the government’s budget watchdog suggested that controversial official assessments of the possible cost of Brexit should never have been kept secret,
Robert Chote, chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility, said “in an ideal world” ministers would have planned to publish economic analysis leaked last week, showing all available Brexit options would harm the economy.