“Significant acceleration” in Brexit planning, say Downing Street
The government gives some details on Brexit preparations but not what it’s preparing for.
Following a cabinet meeting today, the prime minister’s office sent a briefing saying there had been a “significant acceleration” in planning for Brexit. As part of preparations, Whitehall has hired 3,000 additional civil servants. HMRC will also recruit an extra 3,000 to 5,000 staff. Last week, HMRC chief executive Jon Thompson told a House of Commons committee that HMRC would need up to £450m in extra funding as well as 3,000-5,000 staff to deal with a ‘no deal’ scenario.
Sky News’ Beth Rigby noted in a tweet that ministers seemed keen to avoid questions from reporters following the meeting. If true, it suggests the prime minister is trying to assert more control over the messages coming from government.
Cabinet ministers often used to walk back to departments after cabinet. Today most jumping into waiting cars. Don’t want be #doorstepped?
— Beth Rigby (@BethRigby) 31 October 2017
The briefing also said the Treasury had committed over £500m on preparations and that a new EU exit and trade sub committee was being created to focus on “domestic preparedness, legislation, and devolution.” Huffington Post has more on the briefing.
The government said that whilst its “preferred scenario” was for a “bold and ambitious deal”, the preparations include plans for a range of outcomes including a ‘no deal’ scenario. The danger with this, of course, is that a lot of money is spent on systems that may not meet the needs of post-Brexit Britain.
The briefing also doesn’t elaborate on what a “bold and ambitious deal” might look like. Indeed, it’s not clear the government has united yet around a vision for Britain’s post-Brexit future. Whilst the prime minister’s Florence speech gave more detail on what the government wanted in a transition deal, she said little about what the future relationship might look like. This is particularly curious given both Theresa May and the Brexit secretary David Davis have said that transition arrangements (even if agreed sooner) would not be implemented if a future trade deal hadn’t been reached by the time of the UK’s planned withdrawal.
Meanwhile, dates for the next round of negotiations still haven’t been set. Politico reports the UK is pushing to change the format with two sides in a “single open-ended” set of talks rather than the time-limited round-per-month the EU prefers.