The second most senior civil servant at the Department for International Trade has been appointed as interim permanent secretary.
Crawford Falconer has been quietly named by DIT as its temporary top civil servant in an update to the department’s governance on GOV.UK. He replaces James Bowler, who was appointed Treasury perm sec last week.
Falconer, who was second perm sec and chief trade negotiation adviser at DIT, said earlier this year he had no interest in taking on the job but has put aside those reservations to take on the role.
John Alty was appointed head of the department from January 2021 when Antonia Romeo moved to the Ministry of Justice, before retiring and being replaced by Bowler in August that year.
Earlier this year, Falconer denied having been overlooked for the interim job, calling the claim “complete bollocks” and adding that he had no interest in taking on the role.
“Why would I want that job? I was delighted to have John take it. No way did I want that bouncing toward me – not that anyone in their right mind would have entertained it for a nanosecond,” he told Politico in February.
Falconer is a veteran of trade policy and negotiations, with 25 years’ experience in the sector within and outside government. A dual-national UK and New Zealand citizen, his previous jobs include vice-minister in the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade; NZ ambassador to the World Trade Organization; and trade strategy coordinator for the country’s Foreign and Trade Ministry.
He was appointed DIT second perm sec in 2017 to build up the civil service’s limited skills in international trade. The following year, he launched the cross-government trade profession. There were also reports in 2018 that Falconer had threatened to resign out of frustration over being sidelined in Brexit talks, which were dismissed by the department – but not denied – as rumours from unattributed sources.
The chief negotiator said the same year that the opportunities of Brexit were “enormous” and that in a decade or sooner, people would look back and ask, “why were we so negative about our future?”.