Planning for Brexit could cost the Government £65 million a year and involve hiring at least 500 civil servants - but time is being “wasted” on “political squabbles and turf wars”, a new report warns.
Theresa May faced criticism in the paper for her “silence” on how and when Britain will trigger Article 50, leaving a vacuum of information being filled by the “personal musings” of ministers.
The prime minister’s decision to split responsibility for Brexit between three departments, those headed by David Davis, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox, risks “fragmentation and incoherence”, according to the report.
“This triple departmental structure risks creating fragmentation and incoherence, and a lack of clarity about the roles and responsibilities of the new departments has caused distractions and delayed work on Brexit,” the Institute for Government paper warned.
It also called on Theresa May to clamp down on internal disputes to limit the “turf wars” that would be fought over ownership of Brexit policy.
“The current position of the outside world trying to divine the Government’s position from the personal musings of individual ministers is creating unhelpful uncertainty – frustrating those looking for an early exit, perplexing those with whom we have to negotiate, and unsettling those looking to do business with the UK.”
The report also estimates the potential cost of negotiating Brexit, and says another 520 staff will need to be recruited across the trade and Brexit departments at the cost of £65 million a year.
MP and Patron of Vote Leave Watch Tom Brake said the claims exposed the “chaos and infighting at the heart of Government” over Brexit planning.
“There are no prizes for guessing where this £65 million is going to come from; it’ll come from the budgets for the NHS and other vital public services, which Leave campaigners promised would benefit from Brexit,” Brake said.
“The government needs to get its act together, be open with the public, and deliver a progressive Brexit deal which protects working people and keeps Britain an open country.”
Dr Hannah White, co-author of the report, said: “Silence is not a strategy. The current situation - where we are left to interpret personal musings of individual ministers - is frustrating those looking for an early exit, perplexing those with whom we have to negotiate and unsettling those looking to do business in the UK.
“The Prime Minister has sworn she will not give a running commentary on negotiations, but she needs rapidly to clarify how and when the Government intends to go about making decisions on Brexit.”
A Government spokesman rebutted the calls, saying: “Our departure from the EU represents a new chapter for Britain and we’re confident of getting a good deal for the whole country, which makes the most of the new freedoms Brexit will afford us.
“Since the referendum, the Prime Minister has put the machinery of government behind getting the best deal, creating a dedicated Department for Exiting the EU and a Department for International Trade.”