back to article IT systems still in limbo as UK.gov departments await Brexit policy – MPs

The two UK government departments most exposed to Brexit have yet to show progress on how their IT systems will cope with the "unprecedented" challenge of leaving the EU – Parliament's Public Accounts Committee today warned. "The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for International …

          1. Nano nano

            Re: Excuses Excuses.........

            ...would be another excuse ....

          2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

            Re: Excuses Excuses.........

            Hey, downvoters - think again. Did Nano nano's sarcasm go over your head ?

            And nano, you're not supposed to stack prefixes like that. The word you want for 10^-18 is 'atto'.

      1. Milton Silver badge

        Re: Excuses Excuses.........

        Yeah, they then can no longer use the "Brussels made us do it!" excuse - at least that's the hope...

        Forlorn hope. I guarantee that as the scale and duration of Brexit's economic damage becomes undeniable (even by politicians), the Brexiter vandals who previously ran away from the flames giggling will leave no falsehood unturned, no absurd spin untwisted, no sophistry or excuse or evasion or deception unpublished as they squirm and lie and blame Europe for the failure. Their lies will make Weimar Germany's "stab in the back" nonsense look tame by comparison. The damage will be everyone else's fault. Somehow, they will try to convince us (and probably will convince themselves) that Brexit would have been a wonderful success among the sunlit uplands of world trade if only those naughty Euros hadn't meanly mismanaged it.

        Our embarrassment of a Foreign Minister, the facile oaf Boris, has probably been rehearsing his excuses for a solid year. After his endless tosh about straight bananas and square tomatoes, he is just the ... man ... to provide a torrent of lying drivel explaining why Brexit was sabotaged despite his noble best efforts.

        (As ever with a certain kind of right-wing "thinking", it never seems to occur to those people that if you have to change the facts and lie to make your point, then you already lost the argument.)

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      just a convent excuse to plaster over the militant incompetence that is a government IT project.

      And by "Government" you actually mean the collection of "The Usual Suspects(TM)" of IT con-tractors the government hires in the continuing delusion they will "save money" ?

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Excuses Excuses.........

      "The mess that is the negotiation is just a convent excuse to plaster over the militant incompetence that is a government IT project."

      I think you'll find it was the other way around in a year or so's time. The militant incompetence of a govt IT project will be used to explain the mess that was the negotiation.

  1. John Crisp

    How much

    did they say this is costing?

    Bearing in mind they are working up a number of plans of which only one will be selected.

    And the same across all Departments presumably.

    What a frigging waste of time and cash.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: How much

      "Bearing in mind they are working up a number of plans of which only one will be selected."

      Also bearing in mind the one which will be selected probably won't work so the number will be at least one more than the number they first thought of.

      Multiply that by the number of departments/ ministries and just for the hell of it, double it.

      So the answer to your question while not precise is ; A bloody lot!

      It might be cheaper to apply for 51st Statehood, although with the Tea tax they will levy that won't be cheap either

      1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: How much

        Yea, but we'll be saving 350 billion euros a day ! So it's cheap !

  2. SVV Silver badge

    Industry should learn from this innovative approach

    Henceforth all requirements gathering should only be completed the day before the delivery date, with the key business stakeholders "holding their cards close to their chest" by not revealing the details of what the systems should do until then, having promised the shareholders that they have taken back control from the "IT Elites" because they've had enough of useless experts, and that anybody who doesn't believe in a vastly more profitable future due to this approach is talkinjg down the company. Then they blame the IT department at the end when the project fails.

    Oh wait, that' what normally happens anyway.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Industry should learn from this innovative approach

      I've been on a project for about 13 months now (as a developer). We now have a (delayed!) go live in 3 weeks time. We've had at least 5 new requirements pushed through in the last week alone (some of which the client must have knows about months ago!). One of the requirements fundamentally makes change in their business process, which means a complete change in some of the current business logic we have in the software we've developed.

      Whilst the software changes themselves are not actually that hard, it's turned into a nightmare for the test team, as they'd developed a full suite of automated tests to cover both the technical, and business processes, and about 50% of these tests won't work once the new release is ready some time late next week. Joy...

      1. tfewster Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Industry should learn from this innovative approach

        It's called Agile, isn't it? You must be doing it wrong (© Steve Jobs)

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          Windows

          Re: Industry should learn from this innovative approach

          It's called Agile, isn't it?

          Seriously.

          This sounds like Usual Waterfall to me, with run-of-the-mill rapids.

          Every software thing has been like this ever. Management skill resides in whether they succeed in averting the turbine inlet at the end of the intended projectdeathmarch and pulling in mo'money for the late changes.

  3. Herring` Silver badge

    Be fair

    Cut them some slack. The government have only had 679 days to make their mind up. And the EU is not making it any easier by sticking to the exact same position they have had since 2016-06-24 (actually since 2009-12-01)

  4. regadpellagru
    Joke

    I knew it, M'lord, there was a cunning plan

    "In a no-deal scenario, Defra is currently looking at introducing manual processes if IT systems are not ready."

    The cunning plan was to hire brits to do manually all of what was automatised before !

    Cameron was right, it will bring more jobs for brits !

    1. I&I

      Re: I knew it, M'lord, there was a cunning plan

      It’s still software. The first flowcharts were for organising big buildings full of humans. Humans that can inherently cope by mending/bending rules and hiding issues.

      Problem 1: New sets of humans will likewise need to be programmed - with knowledge, processes and training.

      Problem 2: Such approaches might interact ok with similar approaches elsewhere, but how well are they likely to interact with computer based systems ? A ripe scenario for exploitation (as deliberate obstruction).

      Safety Net: Return to Brit default - shouting louder at the foreigners when they “don’t understand” and threatening to take the football (our trade) away. Working well at the moment...

  5. Slacker@work

    If they do come up with a plan...

    ... I wish them the best of luck trying to find contractors willing to sit within IR35 whilst they deliver it all.

    Of course they might just send it all to Capita and Atos, and we know what a top job they will make of it!

  6. codejunky Silver badge

    Shock

    Is anyone surprised? What is the brexit policy? This fairly simple situation has been turned into a mess.

    If it wasnt for the desperation to remain regardless of what it is called this would be clear. We voted brexit, the EU dictated terms to negotiate with them, they were unacceptable terms and so we have nothing to discuss unless the EU changes its mind, hard brexit, there is the policy.

    Unfortunately May stuck her nose in and tried to insist the EU come back to negotiate by agreeing to some money depending on a successful trade deal. So we have an EU still making demands we dont agree with, the obvious route of hard brexit and the ongoing mess that is desperation to remain.

    I expect some people will blame leave voters for this lack of clarity somehow but if they just got on with the referendum result this would not be a question of brexit policy.

    1. desht

      Re: Shock

      You Brexit, you bought it.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Coat

        "You Brexit, you bought it."

        Nice.

        Although I think it needs to be rendered in the appropriate regional accent (Black Country, given how many of them seemed to have voted for it)

        As in "Yo Brx'it, yo buy it"

        1. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: "You Brexit, you bought it."

          This is as usual interesting. The issue is apparently a lack of policy (as the 'negotiations' continue) and that large problem would surely be solved by policy. The lack of policy being due to ongoing 'negotiations' which the EU shows little interest in negotiating. So we hard brexit, policy can be decided and this fairly valid problem is no longer the problem.

          In return are a bunch of downvotes and pointless comments with little value remoaning (I hate the term but it is valid here). Is that because I am right and hard brexit would remove an obstruction to policy?

          1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            Re: "You Brexit, you bought it."

            Is that because I am right and hard brexit would remove an obstruction to policy?

            No, because "hard brexit" is still just an opinion and not policy.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Shock

      This fairly simple situation has been turned into a mess met reality.

      Yes, I knew you'd come out with the "no true Scotsman" line but maybe not quite so soon.

    3. Dr_N Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Shock

      codejunky> I expect some people will blame leave voters for this lack of clarity somehow but if they just got on with the referendum result this would not be a question of brexit policy.

      Brexiter extremists do deliver the best jokes/laughs!

      Please keep up this great work, as it's the only thing that makes brexit entertaining.

    4. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Shock

      A majority of voters did indeed vote brexit.

      For some (unknown) value of brexit.

      Even Teflon May makes fun of it with her recursive definition as she slips and slides whichever way the wind seems to be blowing.

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: Shock

        @ Adrian 4

        "For some (unknown) value of brexit."

        Very true. The only thing we can be sure of from the vote is some people voted in and some voted out regardless of their visions being compatible. As much as there were differing ideas of out, once out we can vote for parties who represent our wishes and so have some control over it. If we remained the same lack of clarity for the future would exist, but at least with the referendum the voters had some say finally.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Back to school

          some people voted in and some voted out regardless of their visions being compatible.

          I think you need to work harder on those English lessons…

      2. Dave 15 Silver badge

        Re: Shock

        As against the minority that voted for the unknown future within an ever deeper union (i.e. united states of europe). It amazes me that a website supposedly created by IT professionals for IT professionals seems to have such a large number of proEU people. Remember it is the EU 'rules' as applied by HM government that means large IT projects like the NHS take billions of pounds and give it to the French (who then gave a few sheckles to the Indians) all of which resulted in bugger all employment for UK IT professionals. EXACTLY this same pattern has happened time and again with ALL major government IT work going abroad and the UK having some of the lowest IT wages outside of China (would have been Bangalore but these days you can earn more in Bangalore as an IT professional than in most of the UK - especially if you are sad enough to remain down in the west country or even now in Cambridge (where the number sounds good but the cost of housing makes it pathetic).

        Time to remember, if you are actually any good at all you can ALWAYS find employment where you want and you can ALWAYS get a visa to work there. If you are no good you wont find a job however much you trawl the world (including europe) and unlike the UK you wont just be able to turn up in Germany or Italy and settle to a nice life on indefinite benefits. If you want to travel then why not go and visit the whole wide world where the cultures aren't just ours with a funny accent. Same for your holiday.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Shock

          "Remember it is the EU 'rules' as interpreted and applied by HM government that means..."

          @Dave 15 - Sorry to shatter your tirade against the EU, but once again, we have people pointing their finger at the wrong culprit; the real problem hasn't been with the EU but with Westminster. The problem the UK has had is that successive governments have failed to properly engage with and understand the rules of the club they joined. Going off at a slight tangent, the inaction of Westminster over traditional British weights and measures is a very public demonstration of Westminster inaction.

          It wasn't the EU who forced the UK to sell off its gold reserves at a ill-advised time, it wasn't the EU who forced the UK government to sell off it's nuclear know-how and then contract with the Chinese - although it was the EU club rules that at least required the UK government to structure the deal differently, hence why they (once again) went for a French company (EDF) rather than encourage UK industry...

          The problem the UK has - regardless of Brexit, is that Westminster's track record in both protecting UK interests and delivering business to UK HQ'd companies is appalling...

    5. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Shock

      Is anyone surprised? What is the brexit policy?

      Good questions Codejunky!

      Why haven't May and her three monkeys published a hard Brexit execution plan, given what was known when they took office?

      I suspect as others have pointed out they believed their own slogans and thought that the EU would simply let them have the cake and eat it and that actually preparing for a hard Brexit might actually be seen, by Brexiteers, as a lack of faith...

      Additionally, I doubt any of the hard Brexiteers have a plan other than stick two fingers up and walk away to the nearest pub to down another pint of courage.

      The reasons why there is no "Brexit policy" are wholly down to those currently in office - those to whom Brexiteers want to return sovereignty to...

      1. Dave 15 Silver badge

        Re: Shock

        No.

        Down to several factors...

        a) Those who were in power before the referendum who were adamant they couldn't lose because of project fear

        b) The incompetence of the current bunch led by a remain supporter

        c) The quality of the briefings from the pro EU civil service who dont want their shortcomings revealed by the prospect of having no one convienient to blame for their mistakes

        d) The knowledge in government that they will screw the negotiations, rerun the referendum and stay

        e) The EU knowing about all of this and making damned sure they dont negotiate at all.

      2. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: Shock

        @ Roland6

        "Why haven't May and her three monkeys published a hard Brexit execution plan, given what was known when they took office?"

        I agree 100%. Hard brexit, sort out the laws customs and regulatory changes we want and care about (Not the EU's demands) and anything negotiated is gravy. Instead May keeps going back to the EU asking them to continue negotiating.

        "I suspect as others have pointed out they believed their own slogans and thought that the EU would simply let them have the cake and eat it and that actually preparing for a hard Brexit might actually be seen, by Brexiteers, as a lack of faith..."

        That is possible. As a leave voter I dont believe they were serious about leave. I think they are looking for leave in name at the most. Maybe they are just too incompetent to manage something as serious as brexit? Whatever the reason it all seems to lead to the same place, making nobody happy.

        "Additionally, I doubt any of the hard Brexiteers have a plan other than stick two fingers up and walk away to the nearest pub to down another pint of courage."

        See now this is where it is annoying for me as a leave voter. There was a plan for leave, by the party lead by Farage who actually did all the leg work and finally got us the vote. instead we have this imitation doing oh so well (sarc).

        "The reasons why there is no "Brexit policy" are wholly down to those currently in office"

        100% yes.

        "those to whom Brexiteers want to return sovereignty to..."

        Far too short sighted. Return sovereignty to the country where the electorate vote for their government. Even if this gov is a screw up the only thing we really need them to achieve is brexit.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Shock

          @Codejunky

          There was a plan for leave, by the party lead by Farage who actually did all the leg work and finally got us the vote.

          Yes, it did read well, until you took into consideration reality, like step one, how to actually leave the EU - we forget that "article 50" wasn't widely known about until quite late in the day, hence why everyone grasped at it rather than ask what is our desired end state and what is the best way to get there...

          "Far too short sighted. Return sovereignty to the country where the electorate vote for their government. Even if this gov is a screw up the only thing we really need them to achieve is brexit."

          Disagree, as I pointed out in another comment, Westminster has a rather long track record of screwing things up. The trouble is that whilst I agree with Farage that as Westminster signed various EU treaties without the backing of the UK public, the Leave result is a nice mess of Westminster's making and now has to clear up, I don't see any evidence that Westminster has learnt anything and thus do things differently in future - Brexit or 'fudged' Brexit...

          1. codejunky Silver badge

            Re: Shock

            @ Roland6

            "Yes, it did read well, until you took into consideration reality, like step one, how to actually leave the EU"

            Leaving the EU really is easy (without discussing beyond leaving) because the UK can unilaterally do it with absolutely nothing stopping us. As I have pointed out the EU's dictation of terms (money, border, reduced sovereignty) can be completely ignored and not at all complied with and we still have brexit. I am not saying that is or isnt the road to take (I would leave it to the EU to cooperate or not) but the 100% fact is that we dont have to give them anything nor do anything for them and we would still have brexit.

            As for the steps beyond brexit the WTO 'doom' has been shown to be empty and wrong. We are members of the WTO and it sets the maximum tariffs we can apply, we can apply any value below that including zero. Removing the EU protectionist tariffs reduces the cost of food in this country automatically as well as other goods blocked by the tariff wall. And it doesnt stop us from trading with the EU but opens the rest of the world. All of that before we look at trade deals.

            "what is our desired end state and what is the best way to get there..."

            The desire is leave the EU. That is what was voted for. The rest is available for elections to be decided and without EU rules overriding ours (see tariffs as an example).

            "Disagree, as I pointed out in another comment, Westminster has a rather long track record of screwing things up."

            There is a long track record, and it is because we have existed for a considerable amount of time. in its short life the EU is in multiple self inflicted crises and puts off resolving them.

            "I don't see any evidence that Westminster has learnt anything and thus do things differently in future - Brexit or 'fudged' Brexit..."

            Again I agree with you. The gov are so desperate to remain regardless of the result of the referendum. Brexit is very important not just in freeing the country from the EU but also to prove to the electorate that they are relevant. Otherwise we are ruled by the 'chosen few' UK and EU and neither you or I or anyone in the UK has any value as a voter. If it doesnt go ahead we may as well forget having elections since our opinion doesnt matter, the electorate being too stupid/uninformed/racist/lesser mortals. Apply that to any political change you, I or anyone believe in.

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: Shock

              @Codejunky

              "The desire is leave the EU"

              Leave is an action/journey, not a destination...

              Although to be fair Farage did have a little to say about the sort of Britain he wanted, just that this wasn't more fully developed into a delivery roadmap. However, May et al clearly think that by repeatedly spouting nonsense will somehow make things true; let us hope the Brexit Snark isn't a Boojum...

  7. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    This fairly simple situation has been turned into a mess.

    Yay, fake facts for the weekend! It was never a simple situation and only those hell bent on getting Britain to hell in a handcart claimed it was. Those are the real saboteurs and anyone who claims that True Brexit™ is somehow being sabotaged are the true enemies of the people.

    Whatever deal was negotiated with the EU was, it was always going to mean massive changes to lots of IT systems. But until you know what this will be, you can really start the work. Chaos at the ports, airports, at the farms, etc.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Whatever deal was negotiated with the EU was, it was always going to mean massive changes to lots of IT systems."

      And it was always going to be on the EU's terms because beggars can't be choosers.

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Devil

      getting Britain to hell in a handcart

      No navigation system required, Galileo or homebrew.

    3. Dave 15 Silver badge

      Wrong

      It was simple, entirely simple.

      We should have left as a nation, we should set up the necessary tariffs, stopped sending the EU money and therefore been able to cut taxes and export.

      The solution now is not much harder...

      a) Sack every civil servant

      b) Sack every MP

      c) Single flat tax and flat benefit run from number 11

      d) 100% tax rebate for any company exporting above 20% of turnover.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Wrong

        Sack every civil servant

        You mean a bit like what happened in Iraq when the Americans got to Baghdad? That worked out well, didn't it?

        Contrary to what you may read in your Daily Rag the majority of civil servants are hard-working, conscientious and doing important work. They're likely to be exasperated by the current lack of policy largely because it stops them doing their job. Consider the demands on customs and excise to come up with a viable solution for the ports and the Irish border even though it is still not clear whether there will be a customs union or border posts.

        OTOH just keep taking the tablets and shouting at the nurses.

  8. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Te plan is...

    There is no plan.

    1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Te plan is...

      Who was it proudly proclaiming there was no Plan B recently ?

      And is May attempting to outdo it by having no Plan A ?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DIT systems

    I wasn't aware that the DIT had systems that delivered anything other than information/advice on some web pages, which would be relatively trivial to update once anything is actually agreed with the EU.

    Anyone know differently?

    DEFRA, on the other hand, seemed to have enough problems with things as they are now, so the users may not even notice the difference.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: DIT systems

      "Anyone know differently?"

      You're correct. DIT is a policy and marketing body. It will, in theory, become a trade negotiation body after the exit date. Because who better to negotiate international commercial concerns than government, right?

      The fact DIT and Defra are in the same report is just an administrative coincidence. They presented evidence to PAC on the same day, and have some overlap in their work streams, but those work streams do not have a significant IT component.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We know how to waste LOTS of money on cancelled or useless projects.....

    ....and we also know how to do it OVER AND OVER again. Some examples:

    - https://www.softwareadvisoryservice.com/blog/biggest-uk-government-project-failures/

    - Billions on an aircraft carrier...with NO AIRCRAFT

    *

    So why am I not surprised that we will have LOTS MORE wasted money in the next couple of years?

    *

    And it's also important to note that the people who pay for all this waste are the same people who will have their lives made hell when the next tranche of failed government projects materialise....they are called citizens and taxpayers!

  11. ocratato

    Comedy or Tragedy

    The good news about Brexit is that we will have a supply of Pythonesque comedy scripts that will last for millennia.

    From my distant vantage point Brexit appears to be the best comedy on the planet.

    Then I realise who will end up paying for it all, and a tear comes to the eye.

    1. Nano nano

      Re: Comedy or Tragedy

      We are the only ones who will get it ...

  12. Nano nano

    Preparedness

    Don't you think that UKIP and Rees-Mogg's so-called European Research Group would have had the time (decades...) to have well-thought-out & Researched answers to all these conundrums ?

    Euratom....Galileo ....

    1. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: Preparedness

      @ Nano nano

      "Don't you think that UKIP and Rees-Mogg's so-called European Research Group would have had the time (decades...) to have well-thought-out & Researched answers to all these conundrums ?"

      Is the European Research Group the elected government? Farage's UKIP had a plan but they are not the government. The remain supporting Cameron who offered the vote refused any planning on the basis that there was one 'right' answer and they will do all they can to force us to vote that way.

      It is the insistence of having our cake and eat it which is the problem. Aka no brexit even though the voters support brexit and have voted for it.

  13. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    I do hope there's a list of the MP's on the European Research Group.

    Those brave souls who fearlessly championed walking away from the UK closest neighbours and a trading block of 440 million people in favor of f**k knows what a glorious and brighter future.

    Let their names never be forgotten.

    Along with their great heroes.

    Murdoch of News International.

    Desmond of the Daily Express

    Harmsworth (Viscount Rothermere) of the Daily Mail.

    Whose relentless, endless support has done so much to make this LSD trip vision come to pass.

    The British people will never forget what you did for them, and nor should they.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: I do hope there's a list of the MP's on the European Research Group.

      Harmsworth (Viscount Rothermere) of the Daily Mail.

      Quite the ominous name.

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