Public Accounts Committee

Defra's progress towards Brexit inquiry

Inquiry status: Concluded

Report published 14 November 2018. Government response published March 2019.

Report and response published

Scope of the inquiry

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is one of the government departments most affected by Brexit: it is responsible for 55 out of the 319 EU-related work streams.

However, the National Audit Office has found that Defra is running out of time to plan and create new services, negotiate export agreements with other countries, and deliver new legislation in the Parliamentary time available between now and March 2019. The NAO concludes that Defra is at high risk of not being ready for a ‘no-deal’ EU Exit – where the UK would leave the EU without an agreement.

The Department has not met key milestones in areas that are crucial to the UK economy, which span exports of animals and animal products, valued at £7.6bn, and fishing activity in English waters, which contributes £682m to UK GDP. It also faces further challenges in areas outside its control such as the chemical industry, with exports valued at £17bn in 2017.

The NAO’s report recognises that Defra has made progress in preparing for Brexit, particularly in the time available. However, despite securing £320m in EU Exit spending and recruiting over 1,300 staff, Defra is unlikely to deliver its original plans for a ‘no-deal’ exit. The report therefore calls on the Department to accelerate its plans for the withdrawal agreement and finalise its contingency plans for a ‘no-deal’ scenario.

The Committee will explore the challenges that Defra has faced and the impact this has had on its original Brexit plans. It will also examine the key areas where Defra is not ready for a ‘no-deal’ exit and what can be done to accelerate planning in the time available before the UK leaves the EU.

Submit written evidence

If you wish to submit written evidence to this inquiry, the deadline to do so is Tuesday 9 October 2018.

Latest evidence

  • 15 Oct 2018 - Defra's progress towards Brexit - oral evidence | PDF version (PDF319 KB) HC 1514 | Published 29 Oct 2018

    Evidence given by Clare Moriarty, Permanent Secretary, David Kennedy, Director General for Food, Farming, Animal and Plant Health, Sonia Phippard, Director General for Environment, Rural and Marine, and Tamara Finkelstein, Director General for EU Exit Delivery, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

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