DExEU to close on 31 January

Written by Beckie Smith on 19 December 2019 in News

"We will help everyone to find new roles," government spokesperson says

Soon to be out of a job: Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay. Photo: Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment

The Department for Exiting the European Union is to close on 31 January, the government has confirmed.

Staff in the Brexit department have been told told the ministry will be wound up and that they will be reassigned to other jobs, the prime minister’s spokesperson said.

The announcement comes after reports that Boris Johnson is planning a wide-ranging reshuffle of government departments after the UK leaves the EU at the end of January – including shutting down DExEU.


"The Department for Exiting the European Union will be wound up once the UK leaves the EU on the 31 January,” the spokesperson said.

“DExEU staff have been spoken to today. We are very grateful for all their work and we will help everyone to find new roles."

According to recent briefings from government insiders, other potential machinery of government changes could include creating splitting off a standalone department from the Home Office to manage borders and immigration; moving the responsibility for tackling climate change out of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; and merging the business department with the Department for International Trade.

The reorganisation is expected to come alongside a major cabinet reshuffle. Today's announcement means Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay will lose his existing cabinet position, while it has been reported that Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove is in line to lead the “super department” formed by the proposed merger of the business and trade ministries.

DExEU was first established in July 2016 by incoming prime minister Theresa May to lead Brexit talks with the EU. However, this brief later moved to the Cabinet Office as May took charge of the negotiations.

Since then the responsibility for Brexit negotiations and civil service preparations have moved between the two departments multiple times, and it was always planned as a pop up ministry.

However,  the Institute for Government has said setting up DExEU had been a “misguided” move that created tensions within government, undermining the Brexit process, and earlier this month the think tank advised the Johnson’s new government to scrap the department on 1 February.

Responding to today’s announcement, IfG associate director Tim Durrant said that the abolition needed to be carefully planned.

“If DExEU sends its staff on loan back to depts they came from, that expertise is lost – the jobs they were doing will still be needed, but the people doing them could get scattered across Whitehall,” he said.

“This is why these changes need to be thought through, not rushed,” he said on Twitter.

“And interestingly it's one that the government has trailed in advance of it happening, rather than a 'big bang' approach - taking the time to work out where DExEU officials move to and what their roles are makes sense. Hopefully the govt will do the same with other changes.”

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Beckie Smith
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Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets @Beckie__Smith.

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