Thousands of staff at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have been redeployed to handle Brexit, it has been revealed.
The figures, obtained by Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael, show that by the end of last year Defra had placed more than 2,700 staff into “EU exit roles”.
The figures also reveal that 320 have been transferred from other government departments and 400 from arm’s length bodies, such as Natural England.
“This is Conservative government panic buying because, like farmers up and down the country, they know Brexit will only bring chaos”, Mr Carmichael said.
According to the National Audit Office, Defra is one of the government departments “most affected by EU Exit”.
The former Scottish secretary added: “Taking staff away from the important work they do elsewhere shows how unprepared Tory ministers are. It doesn’t need to be this way.
“At a time when Michael Gove should be cleaning up our air, cutting plastic pollution and tackling our biodiversity crisis, he is instead scrabbling to recreate the wheel for things the EU currently help with.
“We should stop the madness of Brexit and instead concentrate on the things that matter.
“That’s why Liberal Democrats are calling for people to be given the final say on the Brexit deal, with the option to stay in the EU.”
A Defra spokesperson said: “Over 80% of Defra’s work is affected by Brexit, so it is absolutely right staff from across the Defra group are working hard preparing for EU exit.
“While those preparations have been underway we have published a 25 Year Environment Plan to help protect our wildlife and habitats, launched an ambitious Clean Air Strategy and set out our blueprint for overhauling the waste system and tackling plastic.
“Our new Environment Bill will go further, introducing the most ambitious programme of environmental protection, recovery and restoration that this country has ever seen.”