Mark SayManaging EditorWednesday 17 January 2018

GDS to create EU Exit Secretariat

New team to work across Whitehall in attempting to keep digital changes for Brexit in line with Transformation Strategy

The Government Digital Service (GDS) is setting up team to help deal with the digital issues around Whitehall connected with the UK’s impending departure from the EU.

Brexit imposed on Union JackThe move has become public in a job advertisement for a deputy director, EU exit in GDS, which states it will involve direct line management responsibility for an EU Exit Secretariat.

It says the role will involve a significant responsibility in coordinating and setting the direction of the work of deputy directors within GDS and across government, and in implementing the Government’s priorities for Brexit in way that supports its Transformation Strategy.

The job description says that whoever gets the jobs will be expected to build up the team, and develop an expert understanding of the EU exit and transformation activities of Government departments. It refers to working collaboratively with other departments and getting buy-in from across government, reiterating GDS’s role in joining up digital activities across Whitehall.

A spokesperson for the Cabinet Office commented: “GDS is already engaged with a number of departments on EU Exit related digital programmes, drawing from existing GDS resource. This new post will lead on the coordination of this work and along with a small central team will ensure GDS can continue to respond swiftly to the demands of exiting the EU.”

Government implications

Brexit is likely to have a number of implications for digital services in central government. Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee recently warned that departments are unlikely to have the necessary IT systems in place to deal with a ‘hard Brexit’ by the time the UK leaves the EU in March 2019, and the National Audit Office has highlighted the issues faced by HM Revenue & Customs in deploying its new Customs Declaration Service on schedule.

There has also been speculation around the future role of digital systems in maintaining an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, although this was dismissed last year by security experts south of the border.

Any changes in the immigration regime are also likely to require significant changes in digital systems, and there would be implications in areas such as food licensing and agricultural subsidies.

It implies a wide ranging brief for the new GDS team, and some serious challenges in working effectively with several departments and agencies.

Image by Swissbert, public domain through flickr