MPs say dodgy government IT a major Brexit hazard

Whitehall’s assumptions about behaviour are risky and mandarin planning is too reliant on transitional period, warns the PAC

Posted 12 December 2017 at 9:31am by

The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee has issued a strong warning to HMG: failure to plan and too many paper border systems could scupper the country’s chances of Brexit success.

Its new report on Brexit and the UK border says Ministries are assuming the risks of border management won’t change, and that we just won’t get the new new or updated IT systems ready by March 2019, the stated date for us leaving the EU.

It cautions that in the light of the failure of e-Borders and the fact that so many of our current customs systems are still paper-based, there’s too much “wishful thinking” that risks “exposing the UK to an array of damaging scenarios”.

The danger is especially grave if we end up with a no-deal/’hard’ Brexit, says the influential group.

“Government departments are assuming that the risks to managing the border will not change immediately when the UK leaves the EU, and that border checks will therefore be the same after March 2019 as they were before,” it has found.

“They are therefore not planning for any major new physical infrastructure at the border by March 2019, and do not expect all new or updated IT systems to be ready by that date.

“Departments say they are planning for a no-deal scenario, but do not expect there to be many changes whatever the position in March 2019.”

And for the group’s chair, Meg Hillier MP, “After Brexit, the number of decisions required about people or goods crossing could more than treble and more than quadruple respectively.

“These figures should concern all in government and in our view its current approach is not fit for purpose.”

In terms of specific parts of Whitehall, the MPs pick out HMRC as working on the assumption of a transition period, but says it finds “weak contingency planning” across the whole of the civil service.