Whitehall professionals believe ministers are botching Brexit, survey shows

Straw poll of Prospect members finds more than three-quarters are dissatisfied with government’s handling of negotiations 


By Jim.Dunton

31 Aug 2018

Members of one of the main civil service unions are markedly less satisfied with the government’s handling of Brexit negotiations than they were 12 months ago, a survey has found.

The poll of Prospect card carriers – released as new Brexit secretary Dominic Raab undertakes a marathon negotiation session in Brussels with chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier – found 77% describing themselves as either “not confident” or “not confident at all” that a good deal could be negotiated.

Prospect, which represents professionals including scientists, engineers, analysts and mathematicians who work across departments and agencies, said fewer than 5% of the poll’s civil service respondents were “satisfied” with the government’s approach. A survey conducted by the union in March last year found 19% were “satisfied”.


Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy said the union’s civil service members were experts in their fields, working in a spectrum of roles for the likes of Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Ministry of Defence, the Department for Transport, the Office for Nuclear Regulation, the Met Office and the Civil Aviation Authority.

He called on ministers "to spend less time deriding expertise and accusing civil servants of having biased agendas, and more time listening to the people who know what they are talking about".

“The lack of confidence they have in the government’s approach to Brexit should be sounding alarm bells at the highest levels,” he said.

“We are now only months away from exit day and we are still no clearer on the government’s plans in vital areas of policy, it is no wonder that experts have such little faith in the government’s ability to get a good deal."

Many – if not all – Prospect members are likely to have their day-to-day working lives impacted by regulatory or rule changes that result from Brexit, meaning negative responses could relate to particular areas of concern.

The findings were based on the answers of 1,073 members who work in the civil service or for government agencies. The union has 30,000 members in Whitehall and its related bodies.

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