Prime minister tells civil service to make no-deal planning 'top priority'

Civil servants told to 'communicate clearly with the British people about what our plans for taking back control mean'

Photo: Kirsty Wigglewsorth/PA

The prime minister has told civil servants to make preparing for a no-deal Brexit their “top priority”, in his first message to all officials.

In an email seen by CSW, Boris Johnson said he wanted civil servants to be in “no doubt” about his approach to Brexit, reiterating that the UK will leave the EU on 31 October “whatever the circumstances”.

“I would very much prefer to leave with a deal... But I recognise this may not happen. That is why preparing urgently and rapidly for the possibility of an exit without a deal will be my top priority, and it will be the top priority for the civil service too,” he said.


Earlier this month Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, who is in charge of no-deal planning, said the government was working "on the assumption" that Brexit would go ahead without a withdrawal agreement

Johnson wrote: “I know many of you have already done a great deal of hard work in mobilising to prepare for a no-deal scenario, so that we can leave on 31 October come what may.

“Between now and then we must engage and communicate clearly with the British people about what our plans for taking back control mean, what people and businesses need to do, and the support we will provide."

The memo, sent on Friday, said civil servants must also rally behind other priorities Johnson has set out since becoming prime minister last month.

He said the government must “protect our precious NHS, seeing to it that the £20bn funding settlement reaches the front line without delay” – although the email did not reference the £1.9bn boost for NHS capital spending and facilities that Johnson announced with some fanfare earlier this month. It has since emerged that more than half of the funds are not “new money” as Johnson said, but money NHS trusts already held but had not been allowed to spend.

Johnson also told civil servants they must support his goal to tackle violent crime and recruit 20,000 extra police officers – reversing cuts since 2010 – by “working across government to get on top of the problem”.

And they must deliver his goal of increasing per-pupil funding in schools to £4,000 at primary level and £5,000 at secondary, he said.

“While there are no grounds for complacency, there is every reason for optimism. Together we can achieve amazing things for our country,” Johnson said.

“And – regardless of whether you are cracking policy problems in the heart of Whitehall, helping people back into employment as a work coach in one of our great towns and cities, or an IT professional shaping the future of digital public services – I look forward to working with all of you to do just that.”

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