Do companies bidding for government contracts have to back Brexit?

1 March 2017
What was claimed

Firms bidding for government contracts are being asked if they back Brexit.

Our verdict

There are two examples so far of companies tendering for digital work with the Department for International Trade being asked, as part of the selection criteria for the job, to show that they are “committed to the best possible outcome for the United Kingdom following its departure from the European Union”. The government says that’s not the same as firms being asked if they “back Brexit”.

“Firms bidding for government contracts asked if they back Brexit”

Guardian, 1 March 2017

We found two examples of firms being asked about their commitment to “the best possible outcome for the United Kingdom following its departure from the European Union” in bidding for government work.

It’s up to you whether you think that means the same thing as asking “if they back Brexit”, as the headline puts it.  A government spokesman told us that

“Firms are not being asked if they 'back Brexit'. It's natural for any government department to want to work with firms that are positive about and focused on whatever task it is they are being asked to do.” 

The department in question is International Trade, which recently put two digital jobs (worth £50,000 each) out to tender. In each case, there are four “cultural fit criteria”, together worth 15% of how a bid for the work will be evaluated. (85% is based on skills and price.)

So a company’s commitment to the UK’s bright future following Brexit might affect its chances of getting this work by around 4% based on this criterion.

All this is included in the Guardian’s story. The headline, though, implies that this practice is widespread. It may not be. We haven’t immediately been able to find any other examples on the government website.

As the fairly new Department for International Trade gets up to speed, there may be more. It’s hard to assess how companies would demonstrate this commitment—we’ve asked the government if it can provide any further detail.

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