Antonia Romeo tipped as new Department for International Trade perm sec

UK's current consul general in New York set for Whitehall return, according to reports

By Matt Foster

10 Jan 2017

Antonia Romeo photographed for CSW by Paul Heartfield

Antonia Romeo has been tipped to become the new permanent secretary of Liam Fox's Department for International Trade.

Romeo, long viewed as a rising star of Whitehall, has spent the past six months as the UK's consul general in New York, drumming up support for the UK's economic and national security priorities in the US state. 

According to both The Times' Oliver Wright and the Daily Mail's Andrew Pierce, Romeo is set to be named as the successor to interim DIT chief Sir Martin Donnelly in the coming days.

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A spokesperson for the department would not confirm the appointment when questioned by CSW on Tuesday, describing the reports as "speculation" at this stage. The DIT would not give a timetable for any announcement on a perm sec appointment, but final interviews took place in November.

If confirmed as DIT perm sec, Romeo would take on a crucial role heading up the department established to promote British exports and set a out post-Brexit trade role for the UK. Fox opened up the recruitment process for a departmental chief to overseas candidates, but the choice of Romeo would see the trade secretary opting for an official with extensive Whitehall experience.

Romeo joined the civil service as an economist in 2000, and went on to serve as principal private secretary to Labour's Lord Falconer at the Ministry of Justice. She has also served as a director at the Foreign Office; as director general for criminal justice at the MoJ; and, most recently, as head of the powerful Economic and Domestic Affairs Secretariat at the Cabinet Office, a role seen as a stepping-stone to perm sec level.

Speaking to CSW last year, Romeo – then in-post as EDS chief – spoke out about the need for the civil service to do more to support women in taking on senior roles.

“It shouldn’t be a choice between having to do the slightly dud jobs, and spend a lot of time looking after your children, or doing the high flying jobs but then never seeing your family," she said.

"That’s not a choice that, in this day and age, I think we can put up with. We’ve got to allow both. I think in government we’re doing well compared to what the private sector’s doing. But we’ve got to keep focusing on it.”

According to a job specification posted with headhunting firm Russell Reynolds, the successful candidate for the DIT role can expect to command a salary of £160,000.

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