Local authorities and the devolved nations risk being overwhelmed by Brexit as they are trying to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, a think tank has claimed.
As we rapidly approach the end of the year and the Brexit deadline, the Institute for Government (IfG) has warned there is still no plan for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, the Northern Ireland protocol is unlikely to be in place, and the devolved governments are yet to put plans in place.
While central government may have shifted resources back from the pandemic to deal with Brexit preparations, ‘there is less capacity among the devolved governments and local authorities to handle both.’
In a report on Brexit readiness, the IfG said the Government’s lack of data sharing, highlighted in its dealings with local government during the pandemic ‘needs to change before 31 December’. It will need to work with both local authorities and the devolved nations.
The report, Brexit: How Ready is the UK, said: ‘As the UK faces a challenging winter, close co-operation will be needed more than ever, not least to understand the combined effect of coronavirus and Brexit in local contexts.’
The report stated: ‘One big gap in the UK government’s domestic plans post-Brexit is the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which will replace the EU structural funds.
‘The Government has taken powers to spend money in devolved areas in the UK Internal Market Bill but it has still not launched its long-promised consultation about how the fund should work.’
With less than two months before Brexit, the also IfG warned that businesses preparedness is also a major issue, with many firms preoccupied by the impact of COVID-19. ‘The economic damage wrought by coronavirus has robbed many of the bandwidth, and cash, to do what is needed,’ its report said.
Any efforts to prepare could also be hampered by key people falling ill, it claimed.