Civil service moves special: Brexit department takes shape

Catch up with all the latest appointments at the Department for Exiting the European Union as it begins to flesh out its senior management team – plus all the usual Whitehall moves

By Civil Service World

15 Aug 2016

Just under two months' after Britain voted to leave the European Union, the team of civil servants who will spearhead Brexit is beginning to take shape.

The Department for Exiting the European Union was set up by new prime minister Theresa May in the wake of the UK's vote to leave the EU, and was formed from a previous Cabinet Office unit set up to explore Britain’s options for withdrawal.

It currently has around 40 staff, although secretary of state David Davis has said he wants that number to grow to around 200.

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The department is led by permanent secretary Oliver Robbins, formerly the deputy to the Home Office perm sec Mark Sedwill. 

Directly reporting to Robbins is Sarah Healey, an ex-Department for Culture, Media and Sport director general who now serves at that level in DexEU. 

As well as serving at DCMS for three years, Healey has experience at the centre of government, having started her Whitehall career in the prime minister's strategy unit at the Cabinet Office. 

She has also held senior posts at the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Education.

According to the department, Healey will oversee a team of six directors working at Senior Civil Service (SCS) grade 2, each with a focus on different aspects of the Brexit process.

Catherine Webb, previously the Cabinet Office's director of EU internal issues and a former trade and economic policy expert at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has been put in charge of the team leading on market access and budget talks.

Tom Shinner has meanwhile been poached from the Department for Education – where he served as director of strategy – to lead on cross-government policy coordination in the new department. Shinner is a former policy advisor to Michael Gove, and previously worked for consultancy giant McKinsey and company.

Responsibility for building post-Brexit trade and partnerships for Britain will fall to a dedicated team led by Antony Philipson, a senior diplomat who served as Tony Blair's private secretary for foreign affairs in the mid-2000s.

He joins the new department having served as key director in the Cabinet Office's European and Global Issues Secretariat (EGIS), which came under the command of Robbins upon his appointmment as Brexit perm sec. 

Philipson has also served as British high commissioner to Singapore – the south-east asian city-state whose free trade model some Leave campaigners have argued an independent Britain could try to emulate.

Meanwhile, Creon Butler, a fellow former director at the Cabinet Office's EGIS team – and who brings experience from both the Treasury and the FCO – will serve as director of the new department's analysis team, with a deputy director specifically focusing on economic analysis of Brexit.

Joanna Key takes up post as director of strategy and planning, a role that will see her lead on the day-to-day running of the department, with seven deputy directors under her focusing on issues including communications, staffing, finance and dealing with parliament. 

Rounding off the team of directors is Chris Jones, who will oversee a team of deputies leading on the hot-button issues of justice, security and migration. According to the department, Jones will also have responsibility for work on Britain's role in future security and datasharing agreements.

Funding pledge

The latest details on the department's senior management team came as the Treasury sought to provide certainty to organisations currently fearing a loss of European Union funding when Britain leaves the bloc.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced this weekend that all projects supported by the EU's structural and investment funds, and signed before this year's Autumn Statement, will be "fully funded", even if those projects are due to run until after the UK's exit from the bloc.

Hammond also pledged to match the current level of agricultural funding provided by pillar 1 of the EU-wide Common Agricultural Policy until 2020, in a move designed to calm nerves in a farming sector heavily-dependent on EU support.

"We recognise that many organisations across the UK which are in receipt of EU funding, or expect to start receiving funding, want reassurance about the flow of funding they will receive," Hammond said.

"That is why I am confirming that structural and investment funds projects signed before the Autumn Statement and Horizon research funding granted before we leave the EU will be guaranteed by the Treasury after we leave. 

"The government will also match the current level of agricultural funding until 2020, providing certainty to our agricultural community, which play a vital role in our country."

All the other civil service appointments announced this week:

Department for Culture, Media and Sport: Arts Council England - Richard Russell was promoted to become Chief Operating Officer and Francis Runcares was promoted to Executive Director, Enterprise and Innovation.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office: David Ward has been appointed British High Commissioner to Solomon Islands and non-resident British High Commissioner to the Republic of Vanuatu and the Republic of Nauru.

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: Land Registry – Michael Mire appointed as Chair; Nuclear Decommissioning Authority – John Clarke to retire as Chief Executive.

Department of Health: Human Tissue Authority - Sharmila Nebhrajani reappointed as Chair.

Non-Ministerial Departments: Food Standards Agency – Colm McKenna to join the Board in September.

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