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Wed, 15 July 2020

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Chancellor must give civil service what it needs to avoid 'Brexit on the cheap'

Chancellor must give civil service what it needs to avoid 'Brexit on the cheap'

Dave Penman, General Secretary | FDA

2 min read Member content

Prior to the first Autumn Statement since the UK voted to leave the European Union, FDA General Secretary Dave Penman outlines what the civil service needs from the Government in order to successfully deliver Brexit.


In the days that followed the referendum on our membership of the European Union, former Prime Minister David Cameron said it would be “the most complex and important task the British civil service has undertaken in decades”.

Unpacking 40 years of EU membership would be “the biggest legal, legislative and administrative challenge in peace time history” according to Paul Jenkin, the former head of the Government Legal Department.

That is the task being set of the civil service, whilst at the same time its resources are being depleted by around a fifth, for the second successive spending round.

Even the most ardent Remainers recognise that we need to make the best of the decision to leave. So for that to be the case, the Government needs to address some critical issues for the civil service.

Firstly, clear political direction. The constitutional wrangling has to stop. The Government needs to find a settled political objective, then task the civil service with delivering it.

Secondly, capacity. Either fund the Brexit demands or be honest with the public and staff that other priorities will be dropped. You can’t have it both ways, so have the courage to decide and be public about it.

And finally, capability. The civil service will need new skills, not just for the immediate task ahead, but for the longer term as we take on the swathe of new policy areas from the EU. No knee-jerk reaction and rushing out to consultancies to fill the gaps; the civil service needs to build a skilled workforce for the challenges ahead.

We're doing our bit on this and on 21 November, in conjunction with Dods and KPMG, the FDA hosts the first of a series of events for civil servants to consider what skills they'll need in the new European landscape.

So come on Chancellor, it's time to do your bit. Don't do Brexit on the cheap, give the civil service the resource it needs to deliver the successful outcome that we all want.

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