Government spent billions on Brexit planning, watchdog says

Government spent billions on Brexit planning, watchdog says

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The government spent at least £4.4 billion of taxpayer money on preparations to leave the European Union, the public spending watchdog said last week, in what is the first detailed estimate of the cost of Brexit.

The National Audit Office said £1.9 billion was spent on paying government employees, £1.5 billion was spent on new infrastructure and £288 million went toward external advice. No fewer than 22,000 government officials were working on Brexit at the peak last fall.

Still, the NAO found the government had allocated £6.3 billion to pay for preparations, meaning just 70 per cent of the total funding was used. Some ministries had to supplement their funding from existing budgets, according to the watchdog’s report.

NAO head Gareth Davis said: “This report provides, for the first time, a clear picture of how much government has spent and what that money has been spent on”.

Officials had to increase training for customs officials, hire more staff to negotiate trade deals and improve infrastructure around ports to prepare for Brexit, the report said.

More than half of the money was spent by three departments: Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; the Home Office; and HM Revenue and Customs.

The NAO also said their estimate did not include future costs, such as those resulting from the UK’s £39 billion divorce deal with the EU signed in January.

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