• David Davis accused of running "disorganised and underpowered" department as key roles still vacant.
  • Survey suggests 44% currently employed at DExEU plan to leave within the next year.
  • Labour accuse the government of having a 'chaotic approach to Brexit.

Brexit secretary David Davies, who once declared he doesn't have "to be very clever" to do his job, has been accused of running an "utterly disorganised" department following reports that more than 140 key roles are yet to be filled.

More than 18 months after the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) was created and nine months since Article 50 was triggered, a total of 143 jobs in the department are still vacant.

On top of that, 44% of those currently employed at DExEU plan to leave within the next year, according to a civil survey, meaning the crisis could yet get worse as the UK continues its Brexit negotiations.

The report arrives after it was revealed in September that 125 DExEU employees had left since it was created. The figures, obtained by Bloomberg, did not include two high-profile resignations - Brexit department head, Oliver Robbins, and UK ambassador to the European Union, Sir Ivan Rogers.

In his resignation letter, Rogers told civil servants working at the department to continue to "challenge ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking" with regards to Brexit negotiations.

Commenting of the vacant job roles, Jill Rutter, programme director at the Institute for Government, told The Independent: "They've also been losing people at a higher rate than any civil service department other than the Cabinet Office.

"It obviously makes your task harder of filling up that bucket, it's like filling up a bucket with a bit of a leak. They may be at steady state in terms of complement now, but the thing is if they're then losing lots of people, they'll be running quite a high vacancy rate.

"But even if they can fill them, finding people isn't necessarily enough because someone who's been doing the job for six to eight months is much more useful to you than someone who was just appointed."

Jenny Chapman, shadow Brexit minister, added: "In less than a year's time, the Government expects to sign a deal on Britain's withdrawal agreement with the European Union. Yet these figures demonstrate how utterly disorganised and underpowered its Brexit operation is.

"As every day goes by, we see further evidence of this Government's chaotic approach to Brexit. If Tory ministers won't take these talks seriously, then they should step out of the way and let Labour deliver the jobs-first Brexit this country needs."

A DExEU spokesperson said: "We regularly review headcount to ensure we are appropriately staffed to deal with all aspects of our preparations for leaving the EU."

David Davis No 10
David Davis said he doesn't have to 'know that much' or be 'very clever' to do his job as Brexit Secretary Reuters