LONDON — The U.K. Department for International Development has already sent more than 50 staff to other government departments in preparation for a no-deal Brexit and could deploy another 170, according to information published this week.
The United Kingdom is currently set to leave the European Union in a week’s time without a deal, while Prime Minister Theresa May attempts to secure an extension. Since late last year when a no-deal scenario became more likely, departments less directly involved in Brexit have been asked to second staff to those departments struggling to cope with the additional workload.
► For Pro subscribers: Brexit: How NGOs can prepare for exchange rate volatility
In a letter sent this week, Secretary of State for International Development Penny Mordaunt said 58 DFID employees had been deployed elsewhere as of March 11 and that more would now be needed. “At present, we are considering requests for 170 short-term support roles. Suitable DFID staff will be identified in advance and may be called upon to be deployed,” the minister wrote to Stephen Twigg, chair of Parliament’s International Development Committee.
If all those requests are granted, the total would amount to around 10 percent of the department’s U.K. workforce. Some staff have also been redirected to work on Brexit issues within the department, though numbers are not known.
“Preparing for the UK's exit from the European Union is the highest priority for the Government … In all scenarios, essential DFID business must continue … All deployments will be made with the protection of DFID's priority work as the central principle,” Mordaunt wrote in the letter.
But Labour MP Twigg pointed out that Brexit has created new challenges for DFID, too.
“We understand that Brexit is placing acute challenges on departments across the civil service, but it is vital that in the rush to plug holes elsewhere new problems are not created,” he wrote in a statement to Devex.
He emphasized that DFID must ensure that it maintains sufficient staffing to undertake its core work, and that it is facing up to the developmental challenges of Brexit. Whether the U.K. government and NGOs can continue to participate in EU aid programs after Brexit remains a concern for development actors. “It would be unacceptable for the UK’s work helping the world’s most vulnerable to fall by the wayside,” Twigg added.
Departments where DFID staff are believed to have been sent include the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and the Department for Exiting the European Union.