LONDON — The government has not filled more than 300 jobs associated with negotiating Brexit, less than one week before triggering Article 50 and starting the formal process of leaving the EU.
According to a new report from the National Audit Office — the body responsible for auditing government departments and ensuring their accounts are in order — No 10 has only filled around two-thirds of jobs it has advertised in the Department for Exiting the European Union and Department for International Trade.
Roughly 1,000 jobs were created in the two new departments — both of which were initiated by Prime Minister Theresa May last summer.
“As of February 2017, the civil service has created over a thousand new roles in the new departments and elsewhere to prepare for exiting the EU and negotiating new trade agreements,” an NAO report titled “Capability in the civil service,” says.
“Two-thirds of the roles have been filled, mostly by transferring staff from elsewhere in government. There has not been a commensurate increase in the overall size of the civil service.”
The report paints a somewhat bleak picture of the civil service’s ability to deal with the huge strain that Brexit is set to put on its resources, as Whitehall not only negotiates a deal for leaving the EU, but also takes on work that was once handled in Brussels.
It notes (emphasis ours):
“Government has staffed-up two new departments to support this process. The capability demands go beyond these two departments and the civil service is currently evaluating the longer-term impacts of Brexit on its staffing needs. For example departments, such as the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, which have had large amounts of EU-derived funding and legislation need legal, economic and sector experts to deal with the implications of Brexit. They will have to do this while using their remaining staff to achieve pre-existing priorities.”
The NAO’s assertion that Britain is struggling to staff up to deal with Brexit reflects reports from late 2016, when the head of a prominent executive recruitment firm said that t
rade specialists are reluctant to join the civil service and help negotiate Brexit because there is a widely-shared consensus that Theresa May’s government is a shambles.
Trade experts are deterred by the prospect of a hard Brexit, David Archer of Circle Square said in October.
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