The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and HMRC are among nine Whitehall departments to be given additional funding in the current financial year to meet the costs of preparing for Brexit, it has been revealed.
A parliamentary update on the Treasury’s 2017-18 Supplementary Estimates – the process by which spending plans are updated between Budgets and Autumn Statements – revealed on Monday that following chancellor Philip Hammond’s announcement of additional funds for Brexit, £245.1m has been made available to departments this year.
The top allocation is the £67m made available to Defra to fund a series of projects ahead of the UK’s departure from the EU.
Defra is expected to be among the Whitehall departments with the highest workloads related to Brexit, and confirmation of the funding comes after Defra permanent secretary Clare Moriarty sought a ministerial direction from secretary of state Michael Gove in order to provide statutory support for spending on six Brexit-related projects before legislative authority for them was in place. The projects include a new national import control system for animals, a new IT capability to enable registration and regulation of chemical substances placed on the UK market, and systems for the licensing and marketing of veterinary medicines.
The Home Office, which is working on a new immigration system, has the second largest allocation of Brexit preparatory funds, according to the supplementary estimate, at £60m, followed by HM Revenue and Customs (£47m) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (£35m), which is set to take on regulatory responsibilities. Around £30m has been made available for the Department for International Trade, £9m for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), £6.6m for the Cabinet Office, £5.6m for the Department for Transport and £4m for the Foreign Office.
However, the report also revealed that the main department working on the UK’s exit from the EU would return nearly a quarter of its 2017-18 resource budget to the Treasury.
The £25m transfer of cash (24% of its funding) from the Department for Exiting the European Union, primarily to the Treasury (£20m) and the Cabinet Office (£1m), comes after changes to the structure of the department last year.
DExEU permanent secretary Oliver Robbins moved to a new post to coordinate the government’s Brexit policy from the Cabinet Office last September, where he coordinates cross-government Brexit work and leads the team of Whitehall officials negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU in his role as sherpa.
The estimates stated that the cash switch to the Cabinet Office is a response to the machinery of government changes related to Robbins’s move, while it added that departments often surrender some funding to the Treasury to allow it then be returned in future years.
BEIS, DCMS, Defra, DExEU, DfT, the Department for Education, the Department for International Development, and the Ministry of Justice are also all either surrendering or seeking to carry forward some funds.
A DExEU spokesperson told Civil Service World the department had received "the maximum amount of budget possible at the start of the 2017/18 financial year to ensure that fiscal matters would not prove to be a stumbling block to the critical phase of negotiations”.
"Alongside a number of other departments returning funds to HM Treasury, DExEU has decided that it will hand £20m of its initial 17/18 budget back to the Treasury," they added. "These funds can be transferred and used by other government departments for critical work, which is likely to include Brexit work."