Brexit planning will continue, says Sedwill

Cabinet secretary says he "can’t speak too highly" of civil servants' efforts as the chancellor defends £4bn bill for preparations

Sir Mark Sedwill. Photo: Louise Haywood-Schiefer

Brexit planning is going ahead, cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill has told civil servants after it was reported operational no-deal preparation had been “stood down”.

This morning it was reported that departments had stood down their no-deal operational planning “with immediate effect”.

In an internal update to civil servants today, seen by CSW, Sedwill said it was “important to say that our planning for exiting the EU continues”.


“And I can’t speak too highly of what the civil servants involved have achieved to date,” he said.

“This includes everything you have done to support the government in the negotiation of the withdrawal agreement and in the extensive preparations for our leaving the EU, including the possibility of exiting without a deal.”

He continued: “I find it hard to think – at a time of such national importance – of a better demonstration of the value of a professional civil service committed to our core values.”

Sedwill praised the civil servants who have not been directly involved in Brexit planning – the majority of officials – for taking a “close interest and pride in the work of your colleagues who are engaged on this national endeavour”.

“Most of you continue to see to the day-to-day running of government, and work alongside colleagues in the wider public sector delivering vital services on which our citizens, communities and country rely.”

"So, please, if you can, take advantage of the Easter bank holiday to recharge your batteries. You have deserved it and should be as proud of your achievements as am I. "

The message came after an email from an unnamed permanent secretary leaked this morning indicated no-deal operational planning was being wound down across government.

The email, which followed a meeting chaired by Sedwill yesterday to discuss no-deal preparations, said the government’s objective was to “ensure we wind down our no-deal planning in a careful, considered and orderly way”.

A precise definition of this winding down has yet to emerge, and it has been reported that some parts of the no-deal planning within departments will continue. Sky News, which obtained the email, reported that civil servants seconded to no-deal planning roles would be returned to their home departments after Easter.

The chancellor, Philip Hammond, has defended the government’s £4bn bill for its efforts to prepare for the potential of a no-deal Brexit.

"It would have been irresponsible not to prepare for no deal, so long as it was a real possible outcome,” he told Sky News this afternoon.

"Making preparations for events that we hope will not happen is an everyday part of government.

"Just to be clear about this – we spent £4bn so far on preparing for Brexit, but that is not just for a no-deal Brexit – much of that money would need to be spent anyway, putting in place systems to replace EU systems that we've been using up to now."

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