Government hands private companies £180m to carry out Brexit contracts

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVI

Prime minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). - Credit: PA

Deloitte and McKinsey are among a raft of private companies awarded £180 million in Brexit-related contracts by the government.

Data released by the government and analysed by the Byline Times has revealed that six firms were handed identical contracts worth £30 million each for the provision of "strategic programme management" regarding the end of Brexit transition period.

The contracts, which run from September 1, 2020 to August 31, 2021 were given to corporate giants McKinsey, Bain and Company, KPMG, Accenture, Deloitte, and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) - six of the world's largest consultancy firms - with an option to extend for another year, bring the total spend to £360 million.

The Byline Times reported that contractors were being ask to support "the successful delivery of the UK's economic and political independence" from "the EU and the rest of the world".

Workers could be placed into any government department and are expected to contribute to areas related to immigration, international trade, food, agriculture, animal welfare, and the healthcare supply chain.

The data also revealed the Cabinet Office has spent £88 million on similar contracts over the past two years.

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McKinsey was paid £563,000 - £14,000 a day - for six weeks' work helping to define the "vision, purpose and narrative" of the National Institute for Health Protection, the health body set up to replace Public Health England. The organisation will be run by Dido Harding, who also runs NHS Test and Trace and was a former McKinsey employee, the paper alleges.

This comes as the government came under fire earlier this month for paying private contractors more than £7,000 to assist with the development of England's ailing test and trace system.

Tamzen Isacsson, chief executive of the Management Consultancies Association - a representative body for UK consultancies - said Brexit private contractors had been called in to help the government with the "unprecedented workload" created by Brexit.

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"The government has had to develop contingency planning to ensure the UK is prepared whatever the outcome of trade negotiations," she explained.

"The consultancy sector has supported the UK in these efforts, providing vital skills, extra capacity and insight and experience from all economic sectors as well as innovative ways of working."

On why Downing Street has chosen private contractors, she said: "As you would expect, expenditure on public consultancy is subject to a high degree of scrutiny and regulation but the benefits of it are clear as government often lacks the necessary skills and capacity to deliver their strategy and extra staff cannot be recruited due to government headcount restrictions.

"Consultants play a vital role in the public sector and according to recent independent surveys are valued by public sector leaders for the transformational impact, innovation and increased efficiency they bring."

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: "As a responsible government we have, and will continue to, draw on the expert advice of a range of specialists to prepare for the changes and opportunities that will come from the end of the transition period. 

"These consultancy contracts cover skills that are needed for preparation and implementation both ahead of and after the end of the transition period - including, commercial, operational, programme and project management."

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