Deadline looms for would-be civil service Brexit trade analysts

Written by Jim Dunton on 16 September 2016 in News

Department for International Trade director general John Alty promises would-be Trade Policy Group staffers a “tremendously exciting time” in Brexit fray

The Department for International Trade will next week begin sorting applications from civil service staff keen to use their skills to support the negotiation of Brexit deals, as part of a major recruitment drive in Liam Fox's new ministry.

The DIT is currently seeking to fill 18 Grade 7 analyst roles and seven Grade 6 roles to support the UK’s departure for the European Union, and is clear about the urgency of filling he posts. Tellingly, given the uncertainty surrounding the UK’s likely Brexit stance, the department also lists “the ability to progress strategic policy objectives despite ambiguity” among the desirable attributes for applicants.

Since the UK voted to leave the EU in June, a number of commentators have pointed to a dearth of trade policy expertise in Whitehall. The UK’s membership of the EU has precluded the agreement of bilateral trade deals with other countries since 1973, and former Foreign and Commonwealth Office chief Sir Simon Fraser has predicted “hundreds” of staff with the right policy and negotiation skills will be required to meet the demands of a departure from the bloc.

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Among them is a permanent secretary for the newly-created DIT, with Fox – the international trade secretary last week drew fire for suggesting that the post could be filled by an overseas candidate – words interpreted by some as demonstrating a lack of faith in Whitehall.

Fox has so far avoided spelling out his department’s current trade-deal negotiator count, even when responding to a formal written question in parliament.

DIT director general John Alty said the department’s Trade Policy Group was set to “grow significantly” and that further tranches of recruitment for analyst and policy roles would take place.

He said the 25 current opportunities would cover policy development, international relationships, free-trade agreements, and trade defence and market access, and carry salaries of up to £67,714 for the highest-grades.

Alty also stressed the urgency of confirming the appointments, and said that along with their CVs applicants would have to include confirmation from their line manager that they could be released quickly from their current role.

“This is a tremendously exciting time to work in DIT’s Trade Policy Group,” he said. “Trade policy is an important enabler for growth, a key factor in the UK’s relationship with the EU and of major future importance for our place in the world.

“While we continue to be a member of the EU, we need to continue to advocate and influence to achieve trade and investment openness. “In parallel we need to prepare for the point at which the UK leaves the EU and becomes responsible for negotiating and enforcing its own trade arrangements.”

Alty said director roles for the Trade Policy Group had now been established, and recruitment campaigns for policy and operational roles had also been launched. The deadline for applications for the current analyst roles is 9am on Monday, September 19.

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Jim Dunton
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