UK government could fall apart ‘like a chocolate orange’ in the face of Brexit challenge

| July 13, 2017 | 0 Comments

Without further resources Brexit could result in government falling “apart like a chocolate orange”, says Sir Amyas Morse. Morse, the UK’s Comptroller and Auditor General, is the chief official in the National Audit Office (NAO), has previously warned about the scale of the Brexit challenge, writes Catherine Feore.

Morse’s comments come after the publication of a report on progress of the Customs Declaration Service (CDS) programme. Morse said: “HMRC has made progress in developing the new customs system, which was part of its existing programme, but it may need to be ready much earlier than originally planned if there is no agreement extending timescales on the transition to any new customs arrangements [after Brexit] Customs problems have obvious implications for the flow of goods in and out of the UK, so Government as a whole needs to decide whether the extra cost and effort of getting a working system in place for day one is an insurance premium worth paying.” 

The new IT system is due for completion just eight weeks before Brexit is due to be completed in March 2019. This could result in a “horror show” according to Morse that could risk £34bn of public income. 

“We’re not telling you this is a badly run project but, to be frank, looking at IT projects with still considerable technical challenges not yet resolved in them, we kind of know that it’s normal for there to be some drift in time.” 

“What’s unique about these circumstances is there can’t be a drift in timescale. Normally if you have this project and it took another six months to be a working project you’d say this is a pretty successful project. But this is not like that.” 

Key figures from the report:

In a speech last year to the Institute of Government, Morse said that civil servants a Herculean task. The NAO has a unique insight into the whole of government Morse said that a step change in how government is managed is needed with, he said that it was important to recognise that Brexit was not just a matter for the Department for Exiting the European Union.  

Morse said: “Brexit means lots of additional work for departments. Every department will need to do a stock take of its interactions with the EU. Everything from EU science research funding, to aviation policy, to fisheries policy – and almost everything that DEFRA does – will need to be looked at and new systems and business operations put in place to fill the gap left by the EU.”  

Rt Hon David Davis MP, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Department for Exiting the European Union said at a recent committee meeting in the House of Lords that he expected the UK to be ready on time for a new customs system, but expressed doubts about European partners.

 

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