UK vote to leave EU: FDA on EU unit and civil service resources

Penman voices resource concerns in the Guardian

Page three of yesterday's Guardian included a report on the FDA's concerns over civil service resource needed to carry out the UK's exit from the European Union.

FDA General Secretary Dave Penman outlined that while "we know that the civil service will continue to be a force for stability in the country, even through these turbulent times? the challenge is enormous".

"Many of our members have serious concerns about how we will implement this at a time of political and economic uncertainty. Many of these questions cannot be answered right now," he added.

FDA view on new EU unit in CSW

Civil Service World reported yesterday on the launch of the new EU Unit within the Cabinet Office, created to start planning options on the UK's withdrawal from the European Union.

The unit will be led in a Permanent Secretary capacity by Olly Robbins, currently Second Permanent Secretary at the Home Office; Penman said there could be "few in the civil service more qualified to lead the unit".

However, he added: "Delivering a successful exit from the EU will be one of the biggest challenges the civil service has faced since the second world war.

"There can be no doubt that issues of capability and capacity will need to be urgently addressed and this will be all the more difficult given the spending decisions of the last two Governments.

"Decisions made at the Spending Review in 2015, before the result of the referendum was known, now need to be quickly reassessed not only across the service, but also in departments where they will face the greatest burden in the immediate aftermath of the result."

Civil service resources: FDA tells Global Government Forum 'there's no fat in the system'

The Global Government Forum website quotes the FDA in its five-part 'Guide to Brexit', focusing on: how the country voted to leave the EU; the process for negotiating an exit; who'll run the negotiations; whether the departure is inevitable; and the likely outcome.

On the EU exit process, Penman explained:

"It's not just about the divorce: the unravelling from Europe, and what that means in terms of legislation… It's such a fundamental challenge to the government and the civil service… it's hard to imagine a department that won't be affected".

"It's a no-brainer that we'll need extra capacity and capability; how that's resourced is a matter for the next Government," he added. "There's no fat in the system, so if you draw people in from other parts of Government you'll be losing capacity elsewhere."

He also expressed disappointment in the "pointed criticisms about the role of the civil service in a referendum.

We're probably going to have Brexit ministers in key departments, with the potential to think that the civil service didn't act correctly. So there's a big issue around rebuilding trust."