Government has handed almost £100m of taxpayers’ cash to consultants to help them plan for Brexit – and it could reach £240m if we are still in the EU in 2020
- Whitehall departments handed £97million to consultants in year to April 2019
- Focussed on No Deal planning to avoid shortages of food, medicine and staff
Almost £100million of taxpayers’ money has been spent on consultants to help the Government with Brexit planning, a leaked report revealed today.
The Whitehall document marked ‘official sensitive’ also predicts that the figure could hit £240million by the end of 2020 if the UK has not left the EU by then.
The figures emerged in a draft report by the National Audit Office (NAO), set up to scrutinise Government spending in every department, which says that £97million has gone to Brexit consultants so far.
Money was spent on projects such as how to avoid a shortage of food, medical supplies and equipment by getting it through Britain’s ports.
Other projects included ensuring businesses could find it easy to employ new staff if the UK crashes out of the EU.
The document, leaked to the Guardian, criticises the ‘transparency’ of the spending of taxpayers’ cash, most of which was spent on how to cope with No Deal between April 2018 and 2019.
Consultants have been paid almost £100million planning for Brexit to ensure good can flow into the UK through ports such as Dover (pictured) in the event of No Deal
It says: ‘Departments have not met the standards of transparency expected by government when publishing expenditure on EU exit consultancy’.
The Cabinet Office has led the spending with cash going to the six top consultancy companies in the UK: Deloitte, PA Consulting, PWC, Ernst & Young, Bain & Company and Boston Consulting Group.
They have also been paid to help out the Home Office, the Department of Health and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
A government spokesman said: ‘It is often more cost-efficient to draw upon the advice of external specialists for short-term projects requiring specialist skills. These include EU exit priorities such as ensuring the uninterrupted supply of medical products and food to the UK.’
An NAO spokesman said: ‘Until we finalise this piece of work and report our findings to parliament it would not be appropriate for us to comment further’.
In April there was a huge cabinet row after it emerged the Government was standing down emergency preparations for a no-deal Brexit costing £4million after Theresa May agreed to a six-month delay with EU leaders.
Civil servants weret old to halt emergency preparations ‘with immediate effect’, including the Operation Brock contraflow on the M20 in Kent.
The move infuriated Tory Brexiteers already angry at the latest delay to Britain’s departure from the EU, with former Brexit minister Steve Baker accusing the government of acting out of ‘sheer spite’.
The decision to halt No Deal operational planning by officials was taken at a meeting chaired by Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill, according to a leaked email.
Downing Street said departments were taking ‘sensible decisions’ about the timing of their no-deal preparations following the agreement by EU leaders to extend the withdrawal process to October 31.
Sir Mark also sent a bombshell letter to ministers saying leaving the EU without a deal would hamper the police and security services and lead to the return of direct rule in Northern Ireland.
Sir Mark, who also serves as the Government’s national security adviser, warned that No Deal would affect our security services. ‘Our national security would be disrupted,’ he said. ‘The UK would forfeit access to criminal justice levers. None of our mitigation measures would give the UK the same security capabilities as our current ones.
‘A No Deal exit would enormously increase pressure on our law and security authorities and on our judicial system. The UK would be less safe as a result of this.’
Sir Mark warned No Deal could lead to the break-up of the UK, saying: ‘The stability of the union would be dislocated.’
He says Northern Ireland would face ‘more severe’ consequences, particularly as the lack of devolved government would require direct rule from London.
‘The running of Northern Ireland under No Deal is a sensitive issue,’ he said. ‘The current powers granted to the Northern Irish Secretary would not be adequate for the pace, breadth or controversy of the decisions needed to be taken through a No Deal exit. Therefore we would have to introduce direct rule.’