Furious Jacob Rees-Mogg fears Whitehall failing to plan for 'no deal' with Brussels

Posted On: 
29th May 2018

Leading Brexiteers are up in arms over claims that the Government is not doing enough to prepare for a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

The top Eurosceptic MP said failure to plan for Britain walking out of talks was "both incompetent and weak".
Credit: 
PA

Senior officials told The Financial Times this week that work on planning for the UK to walk away from talks with the EU had come to a standstill.

One government insider told the paper: “Our preparedness for no deal is virtually non-existent. Our ability to deliver a ‘no deal’ outcome recedes with every week that passes."

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The UK’s former ambassador to the EU, Sir Ivan Rogers, meanwhile told an audience in Glasgow that the UK was “obviously not” working “full tilt” to prepare the string of independent regulators that will be needed if Britain storms out of the bloc without an agreement.

Those comments have sparked fury among senior Brexit-backing MPs, who believe the UK needs to keep "no deal" on the table in order to strengthen its hand in talks with Brussels.

Eurosceptic Conservative Jacob Rees-Mogg told The Sun: “Planning for no deal ought to be an essential part of the negotiations strategy."

He added: “To show we could easily walk away would worry the EU, strengthening our position and failing to do so would be both incompetent and weak.”

A Cabinet source meanwhile told the Telegraph: “The fear among many senior Brexiteers is that we are in no way going to be ready if we end up crashing out without a deal.

"We are staggeringly far behind where we should be."

The warning came as it emerged that HM Revenue and Customs - which will play a key part in making any post-Brexit trading system work - has shed more than 2,000 staff in the wake of the UK’s vote to Leave.

Figures released to MPs by the Treasury show that HMRC's headcount has dropped from 67,450 in June 2016 to just 65,287 by last month.

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen told The Times: "Figures like this only reaffirm the view of sceptics that the government is not adequately planning to leave the EU at all."

But a government spokesperson insisted that plans to recruit a wave of new Brexit-focused staff at HMRC were well underway.

They said: “HMRC is committed to playing its part in making the UK’s exit from the EU a success. We’ve hired 898 staff to plan and prepare for EU exit with 700 more joining very soon. Further recruitment will be for day one operational roles so they are not yet needed to be in post.”