Government departments will have to face some hard choices as they handle Brexit, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said in a report.
The PAC said that departments already have much to deliver besides Brexit. Therefore, departments have to prioritise, which could include stopping some projects to make room for essential Brexit work that covers at least 313 areas of work.
In the report, the PAC said it is essential that the civil service has the right people, skills and resources to manage exiting the EU. However, allocation processes have been too slow, it said.
The report said: “The Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) and the Cabinet Office do not have a robust enough plan to identify and recruit the people and skills needed quickly. DExEU must pick up the pace of this work and move other departments on to getting things done.”
The report has also called for transparency in Brexit delivery costs.
“Given these challenges, we expect much greater transparency from DExEU, HM Treasury and Cabinet Office on formally setting out who is responsible for what and on the progress that is being made.
“We also need to know what the costs are of delivering Brexit and expect government to be open about this.”
PAC deputy chair Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said: “It is one thing to identify the amount of work required to deliver Brexit. It is quite another to do it.
“The Government has identified over 300 work streams to complete as a consequence of the UK’s departure from the EU – a byzantinely complicated task with the potential to become a damaging and unmanageable muddle.
“The committee has called for these work streams to be published by April, with a timeline of actions, so that Parliament is able to keep track of the government’s progress in its preparedness to leave the EU.
“It is concerning that government departments still have so far to go to put their plans into practice. DExEU and the Cabinet Office accept the pace of work must accelerate, a point underlined by DExEU’s senior civil servant when he told us that there needs to be a ‘sharp focus on the world of the real’.
“That real world will not wait for the government to get its house in order. There is much at stake and we expect our committee, Parliament and the public to be kept meaningfully informed on what progress is being made, and at what cost.”