Northern Ireland news

Stormont bonuses for no-deal Brexit staff worth £1.2m

Stormont Parliament Buildings, and inset, how The Irish News revealed the pay boost for civil servants joining no-deal Brexit plans
Brendan Hughes

STORMONT chiefs could hand out more than £1.2 million in bonuses to staff under plans to entice more civil servants to join coordination teams for a no-deal Brexit.

Civil servants are being offered a bonus of up to £1,500 to join the contingency proposals which would come into force if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal, The Irish News yesterday revealed.

The "Command, Control and Coordination" (C3) structures may involve staff moving onto a 24/7 rota for up to six months and a 'central hub' being established to handle a no-deal Brexit.

An initial call for volunteers to move from their current roles to C3 was made in December, and around 800 staff have so far been trained in the contingency plans.

But senior officials last week made a further call for recruits – and added a bonus of up to £1,500 to the terms as an extra incentive.

The Executive Office yesterday confirmed the 'C3 completion payment' will be made available to all eligible recruits "regardless of whether they volunteered in response to the first or second call for volunteers".

"No limit has been set on the number of volunteers being sought," a departmental spokeswoman said.

It means the bonuses could cost the taxpayer more than £1.2 million in the event of a no-deal Brexit and the C3 strategy being activated.

Other pay benefits include a "shift disturbance allowance" of up to 20 per cent of the person's basic salary based on the proportion of nights worked in a rota, and a "night duty allowance" of up to 33 per cent.

British prime minister Theresa May is continuing her attempts to rescue a deal with the European Union before the UK's scheduled leave date of March 29.

One of the main points of dispute among MPs is the 'backstop' arrangement, aimed at ensuring an open border between the north and the Republic if no alternative plan is agreed.

Sinn Féin MP Mickey Brady said Brexit "will be a disaster for Ireland, north and south whether there is a deal or no deal".

"Measures to prepare for Brexit show the extent of the economic damage it will do to the north's economy," he said.

SDLP West Tyrone MLA Daniel McCrossan, the party's Brexit spokesperson, said the figures are "yet another reason why London must bank the backstop".

"Should we crash out of the EU on March 29 without a deal and the C3 structures are required, this will be at a massive cost to the taxpayer," he said.

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said: "This may create some unease, but it reflects the real pressure across the public sector in planning for a no-deal situation."

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie questioned the £1,500 bonus plan in enticing the right candidates.

"A bonus of £1,500 may well attract some to accept this role but the reality is that it does not mean it will attract the right people to fulfil what will be an incredibly important short-term position," he said.

The DUP, which backs Brexit and opposes the backstop, did not respond to requests for a comment.

An Executive Office spokeswoman said: "No limit has been set on the number of volunteers being sought. Staff will be selected from the list of volunteers and allocated to C3 structures as required."

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