Civil service 'not cut out to negotiate Brexit deal'
Britain could fail to capitalise on its trading opportunities post-Brexit unless the civil service radically reforms the way it works, a think tank has warned.
The Institute for Government (IfG) said ministers and civil servants were not even close to being ready to negotiate the UK's new trading relationships, let alone implement them after it leaves the European Union.
It also urged ministers not to pour resources into negotiating trade deals with the USA and emerging economies such as Russia and China, and instead focus on replicating existing EU deals with countries such as Switzerland and Turkey.
Jill Rutter, the IfG's Brexit programme director, said: "Whitehall is not set up to do trade well.
"Not only does it currently lack the necessary expertise, but its standard ways of working - generalist, secretive and unwilling to make difficult trade-offs - are all the enemies of doing trade policy well.
"Ministers will find that taking back control of trade also means taking back responsibility for some very difficult political choices - and they need to be ready to make and justify them."
The report's authors argued that good trade policy requires civil servants to work across departments, collaborate with business, be open with consumers and the public, and spend their careers developing deep knowledge and expertise - not Whitehall's way of doing business.