The government has no business plan if post offices are forced to issue up to 7m international driving permits in a single year in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Whitehall’s spending watchdog has disclosed.
A National Audit Office report examining the Department for Transport’s readiness for leaving the EU also expresses concern that plans to manage traffic flow at Dover without a deal are behind schedule.
All government departments are expected to have full contingency plans in place in case the UK withdraws from the EU in March 2019 without an agreement.
The NAO found that the DfT “still has much to do” and there was an increasing risk that projects would not be delivered on time.
Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, said: “These are extraordinary times for the civil service and the government. The department has achieved a great deal in its preparations but over the coming months it will, like many other departments, need to scramble to prepare for the UK’s EU exit, particularly if we are faced with a no-deal scenario.”
Auditors expressed concern that there was no detailed plan or business case for issuing international driving permits en masse to UK motorists. These permits may be needed for Britons to drive legally in the EU if no agreement is reached on mutual recognition of existing driving licences.
Whitehall has decided to switch the new driving permits system from a digital to a paper-based “solution”, according to the report.
Civil servants believe that up to 7m permits could be requested in the first 12 months after Brexit. At present, 89 post offices issue 100,000 international driving permits a year.
Auditors also noted that plans were still being finalised for Project Brock, a Highways England scheme to deal with lorry queues on roads to Dover for cross-Channel journeys.
A government spokesman said: “We have prioritised preparation for EU exit and royal assent of the haulage permits and trailer registration bill will be a significant step in this process.
“Our work is part of wider government preparations to ensure the UK can deliver a smooth and orderly Brexit, as we move from our current membership of the EU to our future partnership.”