In Brief

Government spent £4bn on Brexit preparations

National Audit Office data met with anger as transition period rolls on

The government spent more than £4bn on preparations for leaving the EU, according to the public spending watchdog.

A total of £6.3bn was allocated by the Treasury to prepare for Britain’s EU exit. The National Audit Office says the £4bn figure - which included spending on staff, external advice and advertising - represented a “minimum estimated level of spend” due to “limitations” in the data provided by departments.

Byline Times says the “haemorrhaging of taxpayers’ money” means the “hypocrisy” of the government has been “laid bare”.

The Home Office, HM Revenue and Customs and the environment department accounted for more than half of the £4.4bn spent on Brexit preparations.

At least £1.9bn was spent on staffing, with staff levels peaking in October 2019 when 22,000 civil servants were working on Brexit planning.

Some £46m was spent on the government's “Get ready for Brexit” campaign, but earlier this year the NAO said it was “not clear that the campaign led to the public being significantly better prepared”.

A spokesperson said: “Producing this report has highlighted limitations in how government monitored spending on EU exit specifically, and cross-government programmes more generally.”

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Alistair Carmichael said: “In the face of major floods and the coronavirus threat, we have to ask if the government knows its own spending priorities.”

The chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, Meg Hillier, said: “The public has been kept in the dark as to what the Government has been doing. Data is limited, and the Treasury seem unconcerned by the lack of transparency.”

Although Britain left the European Union on 31 January, it is now in an 11-month transition period in which it will continue to follow EU rules and regulations.

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has warned of "serious divergences" in expectations between the EU and the UK, says Deutsche Welle.

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