POLITICS

£10m For Brexit Not Enough For Foreign Office, MPs Warn

'Cold comfort.'

19/12/2016 13:31 | Updated 19 December 2016
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Extra funding for Brexit will not meet Foreign Office needs, MPs have warned.

The Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Crispin Blunt MP, called Government hand-outs so far “cold comfort”, and urged Theresa May to invest more in the department.

In the Autumn Statement the Chancellor announced £10m of extra money over the course of the Spending Review period for new trade policy officers.

The Government also said on Monday that Foreign Office staff on loan to the Brexit department would be returned once Brexit was complete.

But Blunt said May had “failed to heed” the committee’s warnings that a “substantial injection of resources” would be needed. 

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Crispin Blunt MP

“The FCO will play a central part in the Brexit negotiations and in representing the UK abroad as the UK defines its place in the world post-Brexit”, he said.

“The additional £10m for trade policy officers is welcome, but is hardly enough to fulfil the ambition of the Prime Minister’s and Foreign Secretary’s Global Britain agenda for the UK as an outward-looking trading nation.

“Ministers have failed to heed the Committee’s call for a substantial injection of resources to reverse the recent trend of downsizing the UK’s bilateral operations in European capitals for and beyond the EU exit negotiations.

“Given the scale of the task ahead – including what our most senior diplomat has described as the most important negotiation of his career – the FCO must be properly equipped. The Government’s response to our recommendations is cold comfort for the diplomatic community, who have seen their budget and capacity reduced dramatically in recent years.

“We urge Government to consider this urgently. To make a success of Brexit and the opportunities it presents, I believe we need to invest in diplomacy to support our country’s reputation, security, values and prosperity in Europe and globally.”

In June a Foreign Affairs committee report said the department was “starved” and “urgently needed resources” for Brexit.

“The Brexit challenge requires a fully staffed and resourced FCO. A commitment to scaling up resources and personnel would give a clear signal to allies of our priorities”, Blunt said at the time.

On Monday the Government said:

“The previous Government took the decision not to undertake planning in preparation for a referendum decision to leave the EU.

“This Government is already working hard on how we will approach the new opportunity created. The Prime Minister will lead our negotiations for leaving the EU.

“This will be supported by the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU), which will in turn be supported by the FCO and its network of overseas posts.”

The Treasury has been contacted for comment.

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