Trade

UK government pays Deloitte £2.6M for post-Brexit trade dispute training

LONDON — The U.K.s Department for International Trade is paying external consultants £14,000 a day for a crash course in handling trade disputes, to guarantee the countrys trade authority can function the day after Brexit.

New recruits to the governments Trade Remedies Authority (TRA) are being schooled by specialists from the professional services firm Deloitte. The total value of the contract, which commenced in June and runs until the end of February 2019 — a month before the U.K.s exit from the EU — will be £2.6 million, according to a new listing on the governments online contracts archive.

According to the listing, Deloitte will be tasked with designing and delivering a training program on the technicalities of trade remedies investigations. Trade remedies are rebalancing measures that states can take if they feel they are being treated unfairly by a trading partner — they include anti-dumping measures and countertariffs.

With Donald Trump upending the global trading system with sweeping tariffs on imports from several trading partners, trade remedies expertise is becoming ever more important. For decades, the U.K.s own approach to trade remedies has been handled by the European Commission in Brussels, but Brexit will mean the country going it alone. The Department for International Trade, headed by Liam Fox, was set up by Theresa May in July 2016, shortly after she became prime minister, to take charge of U.K. trade policy.

The Deloitte training program will be split between “core modules” taken by all TRA staff, while 100 investigative staff will take technical modules, the contract listing states. “The Supplier will undertake all aspects of design and delivery to enable the TRA to be operational in time for the UKs exit from the EU,” the listing adds. A U.K. government official familiar with the plan said the training would cover “the relevant accounting, legal and economic skills required to conduct trade remedies investigations and reviews.” The new agency will be based in Reading, England.

The government has outsourced various aspects of its Brexit preparations to external consultants.

Deloitte attracted Downing Streets ire in 2016 after a leaked internal memo warned that the U.K. had no clear plan for exiting the EU and that Cabinet splits were stymying progress. The government dismissed the memo at the time, but Cabinet divisions on Brexit have since burst into the open, culminating in the resignations of Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson earlier this year.

The government has outsourced various aspects of its Brexit preparations to external consultants. McKinsey were paid £1.9 million for a computer planning system, and £680,000 to draw up a model for a new customs partnership with the EU, while the Home Office drafted in five consultancy firms, including Deloitte, to help develop an app that EU citizens will be able to use to apply for so-called settled status in the U.K. after Brexit.

A Department for International Trade spokesperson said the TRA “will be ready to carry out reviews and investigations ahead of the U.K. beginning to operate its own independent trade remedies framework.

“An extensive training programme is being developed and delivered by specialists which draws heavily on the departments expertise and knowledge. This will ensure staff have the correct skills to defend U.K. industry against unfair trade practices,” the spokesperson added.

A Deloitte spokesperson said: “Leaving the EU presents a series of challenges and opportunities, never experienced before. Firms such as ours can help add vital capacity, expertise and insight supporting Whitehall and public services as they prepare and position themselves for the post-EU environment.”

Read this next: UK pharma chief: EU stance puts patients at risk after Brexit

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