National Audit Office reveals the full extent of the massive strain Brexit will put on government, civil service

Catherine Neilan
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There are question marks over whether government can handle the strain (Source: Getty)

Managing the Brexit process will place government and the civil service under massive pressure in the next two years, requiring more than 310 individual projects and hundreds of new laws, throwing up questions about capacity.

A report published by the National Audit Office (NAO) today reveals that the Department for Exiting the EU (DexEU) itself estimates as many as 1,000 new pieces of secondary legislation will be required by the time the UK leaves the EU in March 2019, as well as the nine government bills being readied.

Some of the projects, meanwhile, are expected to be hugely complicated and span across a number of departments. For example, changes to border controls require input from HM Revenue & Customs, HM Treasury, the Home Office, Department for Transport, and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

The Treasury has already committed more than £250m to manage the process in 2017-18.

Jon Thompson, the boss of HMRC, has previously said his department alone has received £78m of that already but is still likely to ask for “significantly more” next year.

Meg Hillier, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said the report laid bare the "daunting challenge faced by the civil service".

"I question whether Whitehall has the ability to deliver the 313 projects and hundreds of new laws it says are needed," she added. "There is a risk that anything non-Brexit related will be neglected.

"This raises the issue of whether DExEU, Treasury and the Cabinet Office are really doing enough to ensure government departments aren’t overwhelmed, and can continue to deliver the vital public services we are all relying on, alongside a smooth exit from the EU.”

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