Cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood has promised to update civil servants on plans for Britain’s exit from the European Union “in the coming weeks”, as he marked the arrival of the country’s new prime minister, Theresa May.
May succeeded David Cameron at 10 Downing Street on Wednesday, and one of her most pressing tasks will be working out the UK’s negotiating position for Brexit following last month’s historic referendum result.
The former home secretary has promised to establish a dedicated department to oversee withdrawal, and has moved quickly to appoint prominent Conservative Eurosceptic David Davis as the new secretary of state for exiting the European Union.
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May has also installed Liam Fox, the former defence secretary, as a new secretary of state for international trade, with former London mayor Boris Johnson taking the reins as foreign secretary.
It is not yet clear what those appointments mean for the existing structure of Whitehall departments, but May will round off her Cabinet later on Thursday, when more details should emerge.
Heywood, the head of the civil service, wrote to all civil servants late on Wednesday night to update them on the situation — and he made clear that the existing Cabinet Office unit set up to lay the groundwork for Brexit remains in place for now.
In a message seen by CSW, the cabinet secretary says he has congratulated May on her appointment and "assured her of the continuing and committed support of the civil service”.
“Prominent among these, of course, is negotiating the UK’s exit from the European Union,” he says.
“We have already moved to help deliver the outcome of the referendum by creating a dedicated unit to examine the the options for our future international relationships outside the EU.
“Following the direction of the new prime minister, we should be able to give more detail on the plans for this work in the coming weeks.”
Heywood’s message calls on civil servants to “keep an eye” on the officials GOV.UK website and their departmental internal comms team for news of new ministerial appointments. And he also reminds staff of their duty to oversee a smooth transition from the Cameron to May governments.
“As ever, while we react flexibly to new circumstances and working with new ministers, the everyday business of government and providing public services goes on," the cabinet secretary writes. “I know from long experience that I can rely on the professionalism of all civil servants to carry this out.”