The recruitment drive was for staff for the Department for International Trade, which is responsible for discussions with the European Union on the forthcoming exit.
The information emerged after Labour peer Lord Adonis tabled parliamentary questions and discovered that money had been used to pay external organisations to recruit staff for the Department for International Trade.
This figure, which was spent solely on external recruitment agencies and headhunters, is a source of embarrassment to the government. It is believed that the organisations have only managed to recruit a handful of people following the costly recruitment drive; in fact, according to reports from Whitehall, only one appointment has been confirmed.
As Brexit begins, the government will require skilled negotiators to deal with the complex legal and economic ramifications of the split with Europe. The headhunters were tasked with finding suitable candidates in the international market with experience in this field; however, it is understood that there are few people qualified internationally to undertake such a task.
According to Lord Adonis, the recruiters were unsuccessful as potential candidates were unwilling to compromise their professional reputations on a series of negotiations that were unrealistic and unlikely to succeed.
The Department for International Trade, which was set up in July 2016, is reported to have 3,200 people working globally, comprising economic analysts, lawyers and experts in international relations. The budget was set to attract the best people to the civil service department both internally and externally.
As the organisations have failed to recruit negotiators, it is believed that the government will spend the training budget of £1.6m to train existing staff on trade policy. According to International Trade Minister Lord Price, 200 departmental staff have been trained in trade policy so far.
This move has been criticised by Lord Adonis, who likened the move to taking a tennis player and putting them on a swimming course. He believes that general civil servants are not the appropriate staff for leading these complex talks on the future of Britain’s trade relationship with the European Union and expressed concern that it was not a sensible strategy.
The department insists that the money was spent to ensure it has the best and brightest staff at all levels through internal and external service providers.
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