The Department for International Trade has dismissed as rumours a report that its chief trade negotiator Crawford Falconer feels marginalised in Brexit negotiations and has threatened to resign.
Whitehall sources fear that Falconer, who took up his post in August, may quit over frustration at being excluded from UK-EU trade talks, according to a report published in The Times today.
The department has not denied the claims but dismissed them as rumours from unattributed sources, and told Civil Service World that Falconer is a busy man getting on with his job.
In a statement, a department spokesman said: “Crawford Falconer is the chief trade negotiation adviser at the Department for International Trade and head of profession for trade negotiators across the UK Civil Service. DExEU are responsible for overseeing negotiations to leave the EU and establishing the future relationship between the UK and EU.
“All government departments are working closely together to deliver a successful Brexit that works for the whole of the UK.”
The Times reported that attempts by Falconer to increase his involvement in negotiations have been rebuffed by Olly Robbins, Theresa May’s Brexit sherpa.
Falconer, a New Zealander and DIT second permanent secretary, was hired on a salary of £260,000 to £264,999 to build up the UK civil service trade negotiating function – a role that has been performed by EU officials in Brussels before Brexit.
The report stated that Falconer was demanding a central role in preparing Britain’s negotiating strategy and a seat at the table when trade talks start with the EU this year.
This reflects demands made in a letter sent this week to the prime minister from 62 MPs, which outlines the Brexit negotiating stance they’d like to see from the British government.
The letter argued that “the UK must be free to start its own trade negotiations immediately” and calls on May to ensure that British negotiations “dovetail into a global trade strategy”.
“DIT should publish a global UK trade mandate, to show how Britain wants to approach its trade with the rest of the world, and provide a broader context for the EU trade talks,” it added.
The Times also quoted that a source close to DIT said Falconer had not threatened to resign.