Business Brexit

Thursday 22 February 2018

Theresa May's plans in chaos as Brexit department's top official quits

Mr Robbins is now EU Special Adviser within the Cabinet Office BBC
Mr Robbins is now EU Special Adviser within the Cabinet Office BBC

Tom Peck

The civil servant in charge of the Department for Exiting the European Union is to move to a new role in 10 Downing Street after just over a year in the job, throwing Theresa May's Brexit plans into chaos.

Oliver Robbins is to take up a new "co-ordinating" role in Downing Street. Over the summer it was reported that he had had a series of disagreements with Brexit Secretary David Davis.

Mr Robbins held a dual role, both as the top civil servant at Dexeu and Theresa May's leading Brexit advisor, a position that had caused conflict at the top of Dexeu since his appointment.

Government insiders claimed that it left Davis frozen out of decision making, and that there was no personal warmth between the two men.

Robbins' departure from the department is just the latest chaper of chaotic movements among the civil service staff dealing with Brexit at the very highest level. At the start of this year, Sir Tim Barrow had to replace Sir Ivan Rogers as the UK's ambassador to the EU, with Rogers warning that government ministers had become unwilling to listen to or accept advice and guidance from civil servants.

A government spokesperson said Mr Robbins would continue to lead the UK side in the Brexit negotiations, but confirmed he would no longer work in Dexeu.

The department said in a statement: "In order to strengthen cross Government co-ordination of the next phase of negotiations with the European Union, the Prime Minister has appointed Oliver Robbins as her EU Adviser in the Cabinet Office, in addition to his role as EU Sherpa.

"He will continue to lead the official-side UK team in the negotiations, working closely with the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, and coordinate relations with the Commission and Member States.

"The Prime Minister has appointed Philip Rycroft, currently Second Permanent Secretary at the Department for Exiting the EU and Cabinet Office, as Permanent Secretary, Department for Exiting the EU.

"The Department will continue to support David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, to ensure a smooth exit and to seize the opportunities presented by leaving the EU.

"This will include his role as principal of the negotiations, leading on exit-related legislation, domestic preparedness for exit and engagement with stakeholders in the UK, including the devolved administrations, and in the EU27 and beyond."

Sir Keir Starmer, Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, said it smacked of “chaos”.

He told the Evening Standard: “Moving key individuals at this critical time adds a whole new dimension to the government’s chaotic approach to Brexit. Deep divisions in the Cabinet and a complete lack of leadership are putting the national interest at risk.”

Independent News Service

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