Britain's withdrawal from EU has cost taxpayer 'more than £4 billion'

6 March 2020, 00:08

Britain's withdrawal from the EU has already cost the taxpayer billions of pounds
Britain's withdrawal from the EU has already cost the taxpayer billions of pounds. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Britain's withdrawal from the European Union has already cost the UK taxpayer more than £4 billion, according to a Whitehall spending watchdog.

Since the Brexit referendum in June 2016 - and until 31 March this year - the government has spent at least £4.4 billion, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).

In addition, £6.3 billion has been allocated by the Treasury towards preparing for the UK's exit from the European Union.

This includes planning for both Deal and No Deal scenarios, with the latter costing £2 billion alone in 2019-20. However, No Deal funding has been scaled down since the prospect became less likely.

Staffing has cost £1.9 billion, building new systems took up £1.5 billion and external advice from experts cost £288 million.

But, the NAO's figures represent a "minimum estimated level of spend" because the data provided by government departments is "limited."

October 2019 saw the peak of activity with 22,000 staff working on Brexit preparations, of which 1,500 were preparing for the possibility of No Deal.

Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO, said: "In preparing for EU exit, government departments planned for multiple potential outcomes, with shifting timetables and uncertainty.

"Producing this report has highlighted limitations in how government monitored spending on EU exit specifically, and cross-government programmes more generally."

The chairman 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."