Government departments clash over preparing for a no-deal Brexit

Support us and go ad-free

Ministers should stop trying to blame officials for a lack of progress in Brexit preparation, a union has said after the chancellor ordered HM Revenue and Customs to make no-deal planning its “absolute top priority”.

Sajid Javid wrote to HMRC chief executive Jon Thompson, demanding action to support businesses and taxpayers and ensure staff and systems are in place to “deliver a functioning regime” on Brexit day.

Thompson, who is due to stand down in the autumn, has earned a reputation for publicly spelling out the challenges posed by a no-deal scenario and has received death threats for “speaking truth unto power about Brexit”.

In an indication of tensions about HMRC’s attitude, Treasury sources said the letter from Javid was an instruction to “Whitehall’s unruliest department” to prepare for no-deal.

HMRC defended its work and the FDA, the union representing senior officials in the department, pinned the blame on ministers for a lack of strategy.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Jawad Raza, the FDA national officer representing HMRC, said: “If, as reported, the Chancellor wants preparation for a no-deal Brexit to be the number one priority in HMRC, he needs to ensure that this commitment can be backed up by adequate resource.

“Brexit planning remains a key priority for HMRC but the department still needs to carry out its vital day-to-day duties of collecting tax revenues, cutting tax avoidance and evasion, enforcement and customer compliance programmes, all whilst providing advice and support to businesses.

“Civil servants in HMRC have been putting a number of options forward for Brexit planning over the past three years; more than 5,000 of them have been tasked to work on preparation for our EU exit, working long, unsocial hours with no additional reward.

“Rather than looking to blame them for a lack of progress, perhaps ministers should look to themselves for the major stumbling block: a lack of ministerial strategy or direction.”

Brexit
HMRC chief executive Sir Jon Thompson (PA)

In the letter to Thompson, Javid said: “HMRC must make no-deal preparation their absolute top priority as the UK prepares to exit the European Union on 31st October 2019, with or without a deal.”

He said the department must deliver “critical internal systems and staffing” to function on 31 October, including the 5,000-plus additional staff required to support and handle the increase in businesses making customs declarations.

HMRC should work across Whitehall to set out an “ambitious” central helpline to support firms with concerns about October 31 and contact traders likely to be affected who have not yet signed up for an economic operator registration and identification (EORI) number needed to export to the EU.

Javid said customs officials must work with counterparts from the Treasury, Home Office, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and Border Force to deliver the “necessary changes to customs, tax and welfare arrangements in order to ensure a smooth exit and transition”.

In his instructions to Thompson, Javid said he expected to receive “weekly delivery-focused updates from HMRC to ensure progress remains on track” in the run-up to 31 October.

The chancellor believes everyone in the Government must be prepared for a no-deal exit, including every arm of the Treasury.

It is the latest sign of Javid’s intention to mark a new era at the Treasury after taking over from Philip Hammond, who remains strongly opposed to a no-deal Brexit.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us