Departments spending millions on Brexit consultants

Transparency data puts latest Cabinet Office and DExEU tally at £10m-plus and rising

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The Cabinet Office and the Department for Exiting the European Union paid out more than £3.5m to consultancy firms to advise civil servants on Brexit in October alone, monthly spending data has revealed.

As government departments ramp up preparations for Brexit, the Cabinet Office made £2.8m worth of payments labelled as “central EU exit consultancy”, a set of contracts to support departments in their work preparing for and implementing Brexit, the figures show.

This was on top of £1.6m paid to four firms in September, bringing its total published spending on Brexit consultancy since the June 2016 referendum to just over £4.5m. Contracts have included work to support the Department for Exiting the European Union’s business readiness communications team, and the Border Force operational readiness portfolio management office.


October also saw DExEU pay the Boston Consulting Group £720,000 for unspecified consultancy services. The payment brought its total spending with the US-based company to £2.4m in this financial year.

DExEU has spent upwards of £5.7m on external consultancy work since it was established in July 2016. It spent £3.4m on consultancy in the year to 31 March to fill short-term roles and carry out projects that demand “speciality knowledge and skills”, according to its annual report.

The payments, and those of the Cabinet Office, relate to work done over a longer period of time than the month in which they were recorded.

Nearly half of the Cabinet Office’s Brexit consultancy spending in October went to US companies. The largest share went to Bain and Company, in three payments totalling £1.2m, while £156,800 went to Boston Consulting.

The biggest single pay-out of £1.06m went to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and the remaining £455,000 went to PA Consulting.

The Cabinet Office declined to specify which projects the payments related to. A spokesperson said it was “standard for government departments to draw on the advice of external specialists”.

“The whole of government is preparing for the UK to make an orderly and successful exit from the European Union, and we are equipping ourselves with the right people and the right skills across government to make this happen,” they said.

Cabinet Office minister David Lidington said in October that the contracts helped departments secure critical commercial, operational, programme and project management skills and ranged “from short, strategic advisory engagements, to day-to-day programmatic support, such as establishing and running project management office functions”.

Other government departments have also spent sizeable sums on Brexit-related consultancy. Reporting of these figures varies across departments, making it difficult to determine the total spend across government. But monthly spending data shows the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has spent upwards of £4m on external advice to support its Brexit preparations.

Following questioning from shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy revealed it had spent £3.7m on Brexit consultancy services between October 2017 – when it began recording this separately from its other consultancy spending – and September 2018. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said it had spent £1.2m since July 2016.

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