David Davis: Old hands believe civil service can manage Brexit
Brexit secretary insists claims Whitehall doesn’t have the resourcing to cope with leaving the European Union are driven by officials keen to increase their departmental budgets
The minister charged with overseeing the UK’s exit from the European Union has dismissed claims that the civil service needs more staff to implement Brexit and subsequent trade negotiations, and suggested senior officials were positioning to increase their budgets by raising resource concerns.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, David Davis acknowledged the magnitude of the task facing Whitehall, but insisted it was not insurmountable.
“Of course it’s a big job … it probably is unprecedented, but I've seen pretty much every cabinet sec whose been in office for the last couple of decades and they think it's possible, they think it’s doable,” he said.
Extra Brexit cash not enough for the Foreign Office, MPs warn
Lord O'Donnell: Brexit will be difficult – but this is what the civil service does
Brexit could cost departments £65m a year to implement, says Institute for Government
Interviewer John Humphrys had told Davis he had spoken to “very senior officials who said: ‘We’re not going to be able to do this, we haven’t got the people’.”
Davis said the former top officials he had spoken to were “people who know the civil service inside out, and they're not people who are now making a bid for more budget.”
He continued: “I think [Lord] Robin Butler [cabinet secretary from 1988 to 1998] said – our civil service can cope with World War II. It can easily cope with this.”
Davis’ comments come after unions, MPs and the former head of the civil service Lord Kerslake all called for extra funding to help the civil service implement Brexit.
Former cabinet secretary Lord O’Donnell, speaking to CSW’s sister publication The House magazine last year, said the civil service did not have enough staff and money to implement Brexit, but he was confident that they were “gearing up” to cope.
Asked whether he thought the civil service was ready – both in size and in skills – for the challenge of Brexit, O’Donnell said: “There’s a simple short answer to that, and it’s no.”
He continued, however: “Nobody should be under any illusions, this is an enormous job. They are in the process of building themselves up, gearing themselves up to be ready for it. They will get there.”
He added that since Brexit “imposes a lot of extra requirements on the civil service,” that means a choice for the government between whether it “chooses to beef up [the civil service] – they’re going to have to put a lot of resources into delivering Brexit – or stop doing some of the things they are doing at the minute.”
MPs get update on outsourced prisons contract as Cabinet Office reports public services are...
Public administration select committee announces new inquiry into risks of outsourcing following...
Auditor general Amyas Morse confirms scrutiny plans following request from Treasury...
Transparency data reveals pay bands and appointing ministers for Whitehall’s 88 ...
BT takes a look at the shifting nature of cyber threats, and how organisations can detect and...
One in four workers in the UK has financial worries. In this article, Elaine Jefferys, Money...
Microsoft shows a few of the ways that governments can turn data into insight
Negotiations are nearly over, but the real challenge of the spending review is just beginning....