The Department for Transport is making a determined effort to ensure the UK transport system is fully prepared for EU Exit, however the challenge ahead is complex and there is a considerable amount to achieve to ensure the best outcome for UK passengers and road users beyond March 2019, says the National Audit Office (NAO).
In a report published today, the NAO has assessed how the Department is implementing its plans to support a successful exit from the EU across its 18 EU related work streams, spanning aviation, roads, maritime, vehicles, and rail.
The Department has taken on a significant challenge and has a large portfolio of work that it needs to deliver for EU Exit. The NAO recognises that these are not normal times for the Department or for the government as a whole and acknowledges that the Department has already achieved a great deal in its preparations for EU Exit.
The Department needs to have primary and secondary legislation passed by March 2019. In February 2018, the Department introduced a primary legislation bill to provide powers intended to address a range of scenarios, including contingency planning and cover drivers’ rights such as enabling a permit scheme and a trailer registration scheme. This was an important milestone for the Department but it still has to process a large volume of secondary legislation, for which the time available is being compressed.
The Department estimates, along with its arm’s-length bodies, that it will spend £180 million on EU exit by March 2022. In 2017-18 the Department spent £3.1 million of the £5.6 million allocated to it by HM Treasury for exit work.
The Department faces continued uncertainty around the outcome of the government’s negotiations. The government has advised all departments to continue planning in case negotiations are not agreed and to have fully planned contingencies in place by March 2019. However, in the case of the Department for Transport, the NAO’s report has found that these plans are not complete and there is an increasing risk that projects will not be delivered on time.
The NAO has recommended that the Department prioritises its plans and rapidly strengthens its capacity to oversee the full range of its activities, including determining whether it has the right people and resources to deliver everything it needs to by March 2019.
“These are extraordinary times for the civil service and government. The Department has achieved a great deal in its preparations but over the coming months it will, like many other departments, need to scramble to prepare for the UK’s EU exit, particularly if we are faced with a no deal scenario.”
Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, 19 July 2018