If there’s one word that sums up Britain’s relationship with Brexit over the past three years, then it’s probably unprintable – so for now, let’s call it ‘waste’.
‘Waste’ because instead of fighting the climate emergency we are instead spreading division amongst ourselves.
‘Waste’ because acts like Stormzy headlining Glastonbury show the potential this country has, yet the arts are set to be crushed by Brexit.
And ‘waste’ because our country has no money for the NHS or social care but it has money for fake ferry contracts.
As a member of the Public Accounts Committee, I have been appalled by the sheer level of ‘waste’ I’ve seen from this government on Brexit. Our job is to scrutinise spending and make sure that taxpayers’ hard-earned cash is used in the most efficient and beneficial way to meet the country’s needs.
But Brexit has made that job impossible. How can I or any other member of the committee possibly conclude that money spent on a contract for ferries with a firm that had no ferries has been well-spent?
Even before the last deadline – 29 March 2019 - we had raised concerns about the number of departments whose preparations were moving too slowing. Fast-forward four months and the Committee has been even more bitterly disappointed with the Government’s use of public funds.
The report released today by the Committee is scathing, with attention paid to the Department for Transport – led by a man famed for his reverse Midas touch, Chris Grayling.
The report rightfully slams the panicked decision making inside the department. It argues that, with little leader time left, DfT undertook a rushed and risky procurement of additional ferry capacity which exposed it to a court challenge. Eurotunnel, who had been unfairly excluded from the procurement process, were awarded £33million in an out-of-court settlement. Taken together with the cost of cancelling the ferry operator contracts, the total cost of this fiasco comes to £85million.
And while that sum, pick-pocketed from the taxpayer, is insulting, it’s still not what I find most worrying about the PAC report.
We know No Deal preparations have and will cost a lot of money. Across all departments, the Government has spent over £4 billion on No Deal. Businesses and local hospitals have been advised to spend their budgets on contingency plans. And all the while, we have queues outside food banks and schools closing due to chronic underfunding.
I’m genuinely concerned at how long this reckless expenditure will continue. My committee’s report argues that, despite the huge waste, there’s still an incredible amount of preparation left to do – and the Government needs to get on with it sooner rather than later if it wants to be ready for No Deal.
But the thing is, the country doesn’t want to be ready for No Deal – because it doesn’t want a No Deal Brexit. Recent polling shows that only 23% of the public want a No Deal Brexit. And who could blame them when what we know about it is that it will cause chaos at the border, destroy manufacturing jobs and lead to food and medicine shortages. It’s simply not worth the effort. But try telling that to Boris Johnson as he stumbles towards it with reckless abandon.
More and more people are seeing the obvious benefits of staying in the EU. People have had enough of the lies, the threats and the game-playing.
Now, they just want Brexit to stop.
No more money wasted on preparing for the worst, and no more time wasted trying to hide those plans from the public. People in this country deserve better. And they know it. Our next Prime Minister should take note.
Layla Moran is the Lib Dem MP for Oxford West and Abingdon and a supporter of Best for Britain, a political campaign to keep Britain in the EU