‘Mr Big of no-deal Brexit’ returns to coordinate Whitehall’s pandemic response

Tom Shinner is tasked with overseeing cross-departmental response on tackling coronavirus crisis


Tom Shinner Credit: GOV.UK

By Jim.Dunton

03 Apr 2020

The civil servant who led preparations for a no-deal Brexit at the Department for Exiting the European Union has come back to Whitehall to help co-ordinate government’s response to Covid-19.

Tom Shinner, who was once described as the “Mr Big of no deal in Whitehall” by an ex-aide of former Brexit secretary David Davis, is understood to have returned to Downing Street two weeks ago at the personal request of cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill.

Shinner had left the civil service last summer to become chief operating officer of tech investment firm Entrepreneur First, which specialises in providing capital to start-ups. He had started his career at the management consultancy McKinsey & Company.


Shinner’s new role in Downing Street will see him lead a team set up to ensure ministers have a centralised source of information on the coronavirus crisis – including data on everything from hospital-bed availability to food supplies to sickness rates among key workers, The Times reported.

The paper quoted a Whitehall source saying the role was seen as critical “to join up the different metrics” and make sure ministers had a single source of reliable information they could access – particularly following recent problems related to frontline supplies for hospitals.

“It is not just the medical statistics — we also need to know about the economic side and whether social distancing measures are working”, they said.

“Tom's job is to make sure that every department is feeding in consistent information so that problems can be spotted and dealt with early. It is really the bread and butter of an effective civil contingency response.”

Before being drafted in to DExEU, Shinner was director of strategy at the Department for Education between 2013 and 2016. Prior to that he was senior policy adviser to the secretary of state for education – then Michael Gove.

His DfE roles led to close working with Dominic Cummings – now chief adviser to prime minister Boris Johnson – who was Gove’s spad.


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