Department of Transport unprepared for no-deal Brexit – cross party committee

Public Accounts Committee also raises concerns about hushing up through Non-disclosure agreements

There is a real risk that the Department for Transport will not be ready in the event of the UK departing the EU without a negotiated deal, according to Stephen Morgan MP and the Public Accounts Committee.

In their latest report in a series looking at Government’s preparations for Brexit the PAC has expressed serious concern about how well Government is prepared.

There is a real prospect of major disruption at ports. The slow progress and poor communication around work to avoid this through schemes such as Project Brock is cause for worry, say the cross-party group of MPs.

The lack of detailed information provided to businesses to help them prepare and the secrecy surrounding discussions through the use of non-disclosure agreements is hampering businesses’ ability to plan.

Added to this is the Department’s uphill task to pass the necessary legislation in time, the majority of which the Department sees as essential, whilst allowing time for proper scrutiny of this.

Even if a deal is agreed, the Department faces a challenging workload during the proposed transition period.

Member of the Committee, Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“It’s deeply concerning that the Government is so unprepared for a no-deal Brexit so close to exit day.

As the MP for a city with a port, I know how crucial it is that they deliver –  Portsmouth can’t afford for the Department to get it wrong.

Our committee has spent a great deal of time pouring over the DfT’s plans and its clear the process of preparing for no deal has been poorly executed, with little time left to make amends. Failure would result in chaos in our city and disaster for business.

We’ll be keeping a very close eye on the Department and hope to see serious improvement as we edge ever closer to Brexit.”

Chair of the PAC, Meg Hillier MP, said:

“The future of road, rail, maritime and air access to Europe after Brexit remains unclear and the Department for Transport has a critical role in ensuring the UK is prepared.

With so little time remaining, there is still much to do. The risks associated with no-deal are severe yet plans for avoiding disruption around major ports in particular are worryingly under-developed.

The Department plans to spend £30-35 million this year on Project Brock, intended to manage traffic and lorry-queuing at Dover. But it is still to carry out proposed desk-based testing of the system and engagement with businesses has been poor.

The secrecy around the Department’s preparations, and the shortcomings in assurance on its progress, are a potentially toxic combination. It must be more open about what needs to be achieved, and work with business and others to deliver it. We urge it to respond meaningfully to our concerns in the weeks ahead.”