Civil service fears Brexit decisions being ‘rushed through’ – report

Written by Nicholas Mairs on 14 August 2017 in News

Whitehall official warns accelerated timetable could mean 'minimum scrutiny for vital negotiation documents'

A policy paper on the future of the Irish border is due to be presented later this week. Credit: PA

Brexit decisions are being “rushed through” in order to quash fears of a lack of action by the government, according to civil servants and ministers.

The criticism comes as the government prepares to issue a number of policy papers ahead of a major European summit in October.

The first, on the issue of the Irish border, is expected to be published later this week.


The Times reports that concerns were raised about the papers at the weekly meeting of permanent secretaries chaired by Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood.

The civil service chief is said to have been told that the accelerated process – which has seen the window for Whitehall to feed back on the documents reduced from 12 days to three – could lead to poor-quality policymaking.

One senior Whitehall figure told The Times: “They’ve had months to prepare but now DExEU is in essay crisis mode, meaning minimum scrutiny for vital negotiation documents. It’s either a deliberate, cynical move to avoid scrutiny or further proof they weren’t ready for Brexit when they triggered Article 50.”

An unnamed minister is also quoted as warning of increasing unease surrounding decision-making process in recent weeks: “This is about the way civil servants deal with things versus the way that Cabinet ministers with views do. They [the civil servants] were trying to force things through quickly for political reasons.”

Meanwhile, the Independent reports that Tory MPs are stepping up efforts to pack a committee that decides on the procedures of statutory instruments with their own MPs.

Extra Conservative places on the Committee of Standards, which decides on when secondary legislation is presented to parliament, could give the party extra leverage over the Repeal Bill.

The legislation proposes to allow the government to make changes under so-called “Henry VIII” powers without MPs necessarily being given a vote.

One source involved in ongoing dispute surrounding the make-up of the committee told the Independent: “If the Tories go ahead with this, there will be a dust-up in September, because we will bring it to a vote in the Commons.”

About the author

Nicholas Mairs is a news reporter for PoliticsHome, where this story first appeared. He tweets @Nicholas_Mairs

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