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Brexit ‘swamping’ Defra warns Bristol's Green MEP

Bristol's Green MEP, Molly Scott Cato, has today said that Brexit is ‘swamping’ Defra and preventing them from drawing up plans for when Britain leaves the EU. The accusation comes in the wake of a response to a question submitted by Caroline Lucas MP seeking clarity on how many full-time equivalent civil servants are working on the EU Exit programme and the budget allocated to that programme [1]. There has also been a warning from Lord Kerslake, who ran the Civil Service from 2012 to 2014, about the capacity of Britain's officials to negotiate Britain's departure from the EU and concerns that a proper assessment of the skills and resources needed hasn't been carried out.

George Eustice, Secretary of State for Defra, failed to give a clear response to the question from Caroline Lucas on civil servants working on Brexit or on budget allocations. However, he acknowledged that 80% of Defra’s work is framed by EU legislation.

Molly Scott Cato MEP said:

“With such a large proportion of Defra legislation being framed by the EU, we can only surmise that civil servants are desperately trying to wade through the swamp that is Brexit. Small wonder that the government is struggling to develop any sort of coherent plan for the environment or for the food and farming sectors after we leave the EU. Civil servants are swamped; all their time is going into sorting out the Brexit shambles.

“I am loathed to steal a line off Trump, but it’s time to drain the swamp by engaging with environmental NGOs, countryside and farming groups and other political Parties who are putting forward some visionary ideas for food, farming and the environment post-Brexit. Greens have contributed to this debate with a report on how to safeguard our environment post-Brexit and two reports on farming to inform policy makers. A ‘Greener UK coalition’ made up of leading campaign groups has also launched a Brexit environmental manifesto.

 “If the government really want us to take back control they will listen to experts and people on the ground rather than continuing to wade through the Brexit swamp”.


[1]Question from Caroline Lucas MP:

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what the terms of reference are for her Department's EU Exit Programme; how many full-time equivalent civil servants are working on that Programme; and what budget has been allocated to that Programme for each of the next two years. (65432)

Tabled on: 23 February 2017

George Eustice:

In terms of work arising from the UK’s vote to leave the EU, some 80% of Defra’s work is framed by EU legislation and a quarter of EU laws apply to Defra’s sectors.

The Department has set up an EU Exit Programme led by a Director General to identify and coordinate work stemming from EU Exit across the Defra group. EU exit work is currently undertaken in all policy directorates in the Department, and in some corporate services areas. It is not possible to give an accurate figure of FTE civil servants working on the programme, given its extensive impact, nor to give a discrete figure regarding budget allocations to EU Exit.

The answer was submitted on 02 Mar 2017 at 17:13.

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