Government spends more than £100m on Brexit service contracts

26 February 2019

The UK government has signed 85 contracts for consultancy, research, legal, recruitment and IT services to help prepare for Brexit since the referendum, according to research.

By examining contracts awarded since the referendum in 2016, research group Tussell found the government had awarded contracts with a value of £107.3m to suppliers to help the government navigate Brexit preparations.

Of contracts awarded to consultancies, research firms and other services including legal and IT support, 72% of the total value was for contracts awarded by the Cabinet Office (CO).

The highest value contracts were awarded for consultancy services, with 28 contracts awarded worth £91.7m, with the bulk of the value stemming from contracts issued by the CO to nine suppliers in 2018, including Deloitte, Ernst and Young and Boston Consulting Group.

The contracts, worth £75m and for "consultancy support for EU exit", have been criticised by MPs due to the secrecy surrounding them.

Meg Hillier, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said in January that the secrecy around the contracts was “ridiculous” and revealed she would be asking the National Audit Office to investigate, according to Sky News.

Despite consultancy services receiving the highest value, nearly half (48%) of all Brexit-related contracts were issued for research services, with 41 contracts totaling £4m.

While central government procured the most Brexit-related research, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs alone awarded 13 contracts for research services. The largest research contract was awarded to consultancy Britainthinks for £800,000 for research support for the UK’s exit from the EU.

The research contracts also revealed that smaller bodies including Visit Britain, the BFI and local councils were worried about the impact of Brexit.

Gus Tugendhat, founder of Tussell, said seeking expertise from outside service providers was a pragmatic move, due to the breadth of issues surrounding the UK exiting the EU.

He said: “Even in the best of circumstances, the civil service alone would never have had sufficient capacity to pull off a project like Brexit in the time available. It was pragmatic to engage the expertise of consultants – even if it is has led to extra cost for the public sector and a windfall for consulting firms.”

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