London, March 6 (IANS) Departments of the UK government have spent more than 4 billion pounds ($5 billion) on preparations for leaving the European Union (EU), according to country’s public spending watchdog.

In a report, the National Audit Office (NAO) found that the Home Office, HM Revenue and Customs and the Environment Department accounted for more than half of the 4.4 billion pounds spent on Brexit preparations, the BBC reported on Friday.

Between 2016-17 and 2019-20, the Treasury made available 6.3 billion pounds of additional funding to cover the costs of the UK leaving the EU with or without a deal.

Of this money, at least 1.9 billion pounds was spent on staffing.

The NAO said in the report that staffing levels peaked in October 2019 when 22,000 civil servants were working on Brexit planning.

The report added that advertising, building new systems and other services cost at least 1.5 billion pounds – which included spending 283 million pounds to build the EU settlement scheme and 69 million pounds on ‘Operation Brock’, a traffic management system to be used in Kent in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

“In preparing for EU exit, government departments planned for multiple potential outcomes, with shifting timetables and uncertainty,” the BBC quoted head of the NAO, Gareth Davies, as saying.

“Producing this report has highlighted limitations in how government monitored spending on EU exit specifically, and cross-government programmes more generally.”

In response, while the Treasury spokesperson said the government had made “all necessary funds available” to ensure the country was prepared for leaving the EU, the Liberal Democrats claimed “billions of pounds have been thrown away in a bid to paper over the Tories’ Brexit mess”.

The UK exited the EU on January 31.




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