Brexit department more reliant on fast streamers than the rest of government

Analysis finds that the department has more than double the proportion of graduate fast streamers than elsewhere in Whitehall


By Emilio Casalicchio

05 Jul 2018

Photo: PA

The Department for Exiting the European Union is more reliant on graduate staff than any other major government ministry, an analysis by Civil Service World’s sister title PoliticsHome has found.

Nearly 8% – or one in 12 – of all staff at the Department for Exiting the European Union are from the Fast Stream, a scheme aimed at getting bright young graduates into Whitehall.

The figure for the ministry run by Brexit Secretary David Davis is more than three times higher than the next most graduate-heavy department.


But government officials said the proportion of graduate employees in DExEU was due to the relatively small size of its workforce.

Figures released to PoliticsHome through Freedom of Information show there were 51 fast streamers working in DExEU at the start of April this year, amounting to 7.8% of the 653-strong workforce.

The Department for International Trade – which was also set up as a result of Brexit – had the next highest proportion of graduates, at 2.4% of its 3,231 staff.

Elsewhere in Whitehall, 2.2% of the Ministry of Justice workforce were fast-streamers, in the Department for Business the figure was 2%, and at the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural affairs it was just 1.3%.

The Foreign Office had the smallest proportion of graduates in April this year (0.08%) followed by the Department for Work and Pensions (0.1%) and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (0.14%).

Joe Owen, associate director of the Institute for Government think tank, said the high proportion of graduates being drafted into DExEU “makes sense” on a logistical level.

“The department was able to grow quite quickly and – when the time comes – it will be easier to wind it up," he argued. "It also reduces the number of staff being sucked in from other Whitehall departments."

But he added: “Relying more heavily on graduates has consequences. They take time to find their feet and after six months they tend to move on – contributing to DExEU’s high level of churn.”

A spokesperson for the department told PoliticsHome: “DExEU was set up as a time-limited department with a clear mandate to carry out a historic task: implement the democratic decision of the British people to leave the EU.

"In keeping with this, the majority of our staff are employed on fixed-term contracts or are loaned from other Government departments, and many have been drawn from civil service talent streams.

“In addition, the proportion of fast streamers has to be taken in relation to the size of our department which is modest.  

"We are determined to continue recruiting the brightest and the best talent from the public and private sectors.

"Fast-streamers join DExEU as part of the Fast Stream rotation process and it provides DExEU with access to high calibre individuals to work on EU exit related work."

Last December, the Public Accounts Committee urged the civil service to get a grip on its Brexit workforce and address the “alarmingly high” staff churn rate in the Department for Exiting the European Union, following a National Audit Office report outlining skills shortages. This followed the Institute for Government’s Jill Rutter telling Civil Service World earlier this year that some civil servants were “using Brexit as an opportunity to move jobs and to get promoted”. 

But Victoria Taylor, FDA national officer for DExEU, wrote in CSW that high turnover was unsurprising as staff had been “brought in temporarily to set things up”.

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