EXCL Brexit department more reliant on graduates than the rest of Government

Posted On: 
4th July 2018

The Brexit department is more reliant on graduate staff than any other major government ministry, PoliticsHome can reveal.

Brexit Secretary David Davis relies on an "army" of graduates
Credit: 
PA Images

Nearly 8% - or one in 12 - of all staff at the Department for Exiting the European Union are from the civil service fast-stream programme - a scheme aimed at getting bright young graduates into Whitehall.

The figure for the ministry run by Brexit Secretary David Davis is more than three times higher than the next most graduate-heavy department.

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Pro-EU campaigners said the revelation was proof of a "Brexit brain drain" across the rest of Government, with inexperienced staff taking jobs in DExEU in a bid to "steady the ship".

But government officials said the proportion of graduate employees in DExEU was due to the relatively small size of its workforce.

Figures released to PoliticsHome through Freedom of Information show there were 51 fast streamers working in DExEU at the start of April this year, amounting to 7.8% of the 653-strong workforce.

The Department for International Trade - which was also set up as a result of Brexit - had the next highest proportion of graduates, at 2.4% of its 3,231 staff.

Elsewhere in Whitehall, 2.2% of the Ministry of Justice workforce were fast-streamers, in the Department for Business the figure was 2%, and at the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural affairs it was just 1.3%.

The Foreign Office had the smallest proportion of graduates in April this year (0.08%) followed by the Department for Work and Pensions (0.1%) and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (0.14%).

BREXIT 'SUCKING IN TALENT'

Labour MP Ian Murray, speaking on behalf of the pro-Remain People’s Vote campaign, told PoliticsHome Brexit was “sucking in all the talent from across government”.

“The only jobs generated by Brexit appear to be in the departments that are botching it,” he said.

Lib Dem MP Tom Brake said the figures were “further evidence of the Brexit brain drain”, adding: “The Government is currently totally consumed by Brexit and it is having a knock on effect on every area of policy.”

And Labour MP Virendra Sharma, speaking for the Best for Britain campaign, said: “The department responsible for the most complex negotiations we’ve ever undergone as a country needs real experience in order to get a deal anywhere near what’s best for Britain.

“DExEU have no plan and no clue. They’re relying on an army of undoubtedly excellent but inexperienced young staffers to try to steady the ship."

'GRADUATES EASY TO HIRE AND LET GO'

Joe Owen, associate director of the Institute for Government think tank, said the high proportion of graduates being drafted into DExEU “makes sense” on a logistical level.

“The department was able to grow quite quickly and – when the time comes – it will be easier to wind it up," he argued. "It also reduces the number of staff being sucked in from other Whitehall departments."

But he added: “Relying more heavily on graduates has consequences. They take time to find their feet and after six months they tend to move on – contributing to DExEU’s high level of churn.”

'MODEST' DEPARTMENT

A spokesperson for the department told PoliticsHome: “DExEU was set up as a time-limited department with a clear mandate to carry out a historic task: implement the democratic decision of the British people to leave the EU.

"In keeping with this, the majority of our staff are employed on fixed-term contracts or are loaned from other Government departments, and many have been drawn from civil service talent streams.

“In addition, the proportion of fast streamers has to be taken in relation to the size of our department which is modest.  

"We are determined to continue recruiting the brightest and the best talent from the public and private sectors.

"Fast-streamers join DExEU as part of the Fast Stream rotation process and it provides DExEU with access to high calibre individuals to work on EU exit related work."