'Mr Big of no-deal Brexit' appointed to coordinate Covid response leaves civil service again

Tom Shinner leaves secondment amid several other civil service departures
Photo: GOV.UK

Tom Shinner, the civil servant once called “Mr Big of no-deal Brexit” who was drafted in to help coordinate the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, has left government once again.

Shinner, who led the government’s preparations for a no-deal Brexit before taking a role at the tech investment firm Entrepreneur First, returned to the civil service in April.

He was appointed to lead a team that provided ministers with a centralised source of information on the coronavirus crisis. His return came when a number of officials were being brought back into government to help handle the response, including No.10 permanent secretary Simon Case

He is understood to have returned to government at the personal request of cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill.

The Mail on Sunday has now reported Shinner has stood down.

No.10 sources said Shinner had been appointed on a short-term secondment and that the response to the pandemic was beginning to “wind down”, it said.

Shinner, whose career began at the management consultancy McKinsey & Company, will return to his job at Entrepreneur First.

But an unnamed official told the Mail: “There is a uneasy feeling in the building that those directly involved in the past few months are making themselves scarce before the inevitable post-mortem.”

The news follows several announcements of other high-profile civil service departures, not all of which have been linked to the pandemic.

They come amid a push to radically reform government by No.10 special adviser Dominic Cummings, who recently said a “hard rain” would soon fall on Whitehall.

Last week Sedwill said he would step down in the autumn. The cab sec told MPs that he was leaving the civil service under an agreement with the prime minister, but questions have been raised after Boris Johnson signed off on an exit payment to Sedwill of nearly £250,000.

Ministry of Justice permanent secretary Sir Richard Heaton also announced last week that he would leave the civil service in the summer.

Clare Moriarty, who headed up the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and then the Department for Exiting the European Union, left when the Brexit ministry closed in January. Soon afterwards, Home Office head Sir Philip Rutnam resigned in a high-profile spat with home secretary Priti Patel.

CSW has approached the Cabinet Office for a comment.

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