Department for Transport's implementation of Brexit Contents

2Communications with businesses and the public

Engaging with businesses

16.The Department acknowledged that key industries are seeking information to be able to develop their own plans for the future, including the implications of leaving the EU without a deal. This includes road hauliers, who may need to vary their points of entry to Europe, or their routes of travel to UK ports.

17.The Department told us that it is building a number of new systems with which businesses will have to engage. Yet it appears that in making its preparations, the Department has had limited engagement with users, either in developing or testing plans. For example:

18.The Department produced 13 technical notices this summer as part of a government-wide programme to provide guidance to the public and businesses on what might happen if there was no deal with the EU. The Department told us that it had had engagement with the transport industry in developing these technical notices, in order to ensure the Department was addressing the right issues. It told us this engagement was covered by non-disclosure agreements, which was something the Department used when talking to the sector about issues which it considered were commercially sensitive. However the Department was unable to confirm whether the non-disclosure agreements covered just the draft of the technical notices or the conversations as a whole, and could not say whether those being used around EU exit work differed in extent from those used on other occasions. Businesses who wanted to take part in consultations over the technical notices had little choice but to sign these agreements. Again, we raised this concern in our recent report on preparedness for EU Exit at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Communicating with the public

19.The Department acknowledged that there had already been some concerns caused by a lack of communication, such as on Highways England’s work on the M26. The Department told us that it understood the importance of clear communication with the public, but that it had left this to Highways England to manage.

20.Our concerns about the need for better communication between the Department and the public were illustrated by preparations for the issuing of International Driving Permits. The Department told us that it had set out in a technical notice this summer the possibility that people may need to seek permits in future, but there was more communication to do on the specific process. Although the Department told us it had a plan, it could not provide us in the session with detail on the timing or method of communication to be used. In subsequent written evidence, it stated that it planned to begin communication with private drivers in the New Year, and that this would include publication on and advertising in key locations. Another example concerned the development of a new system for seafarers to notify the department about oil spills. Communication with the public about its responsibilities is crucial for the system but the Department is currently focused on design rather than communication.

21.The Department was concerned about communicating with the public before it was clear whether action would be needed–for example, if a deal is reached with the EU and international driving permits are not necessary. We accept the validity of this concern, but we are not convinced by the Department’s preparedness for informing the public of what they would need to do should no deal be reached. After the session, the Department informed us it intended to begin communications with the public in the New Year, regardless of whether a deal was reached or not, although the scope and content of the communication would change.

22.The Department emphasised that there was a role for third parties in disseminating information alongside the government. For example, the Department expected that car hire and ferry companies would also publicise the need for travellers to have international driving permits, and said it was working with them to ensure messages would be coherent However it was unable to explain how it was co-ordinating this work.

Published: 28 November 2018