It is not only the material cost that must be considered, but the impact of distraction and frustration in Whitehallby Martin Lodge / July 27, 2017 / Leave a comment
Unlikely as it may seem, beyond the politically-charged Brexit headlines, actual administrative work is taking place. Position papers are being crafted and ignored; requests for information are moving up and down the Whitehall communication chain; nearly a hundred UK civil servants were beavering away in Brussels during the initial negotiation round, and two new departments—the Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU) and the Department for International Trade—are seeking to shore themselves up. We know, too, about earmarked expenditures for additional civil service positions (£400m) and that over 1000 Brexit-related positions had been established (but not necessarily filled) by February 2017. All of this raises a seemingly straightforward question: what is the administrative cost of administering Brexit?
If this question sounds simple, in practice, putting a number on the administrative cost of Brexit presents a heroic task. Any proper costing exercise needs to include material factors—such as the need to recruit for particular positions, the need to create or rename ministerial departments, and the need to keep these departments and agencies running. Such tangible costs need to be combined with assessments of the potential opportunity costs. The cost of Brexit therefore needs to include the (opportunity) cost of not being able to embark on other policy priorities, and the need to shuffle administrative talent away from other portfolios to deal with Brexit.