Oliver Robbins announced as head of Cabinet Office Brexit unit

Robbins, described as one of the "stars of Whitehall", will work closely with Oliver Letwin to prepare Brexit advice for next prime minister

By Suzannah.Brecknell

29 Jun 2016

Oliver Robbins, currently the second permanent secretary at the Home Office, will be heading up the new Brexit unit in the Cabinet Office.

Robbins will move to the new unit – charged with examining options on Britian’s future relationship with the EU – on 4 July. He will also have responsibility for the European and Global Issues Secretariat, previously led by incoming Treasury perm sec Tom Scholar.

The unit, made up of civil servants from the Cabinet Office, Treasury and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, will report to Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin. 

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Cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood said: “I am delighted to announce that Olly Robbins has agreed to take on this crucial role. He has a wealth of government, international and negotiating experience that makes him ideally suited to this very challenging role.

“I have every confidence that he will offer the very best advice and support to the government through these unprecedented times to ensure we secure the best possible deal for the UK.

Simon Case, the prime minister’s principal private secretary, tweeted shortly after the announcement: “Delighted to be working very closely with @OllyRobbins again. PM promised the best and brightest of @UKCivilService and OR is certainly that”

At the Home Office, Robbins has had responsibility for immigration and free movement policy as well as oversight of the borders, immigration and citizenship system.

On the announcement of his new role, Robbins said: “It has been a privilege to work at the Home Office and guide the work of the border and immigration services. This is vital work and my Home Office colleagues should be very proud of what they do.

"Nonetheless it is a huge responsibility to support the Cabinet in thinking through the issues arising from last week’s referendum outcome, and I look forward to working closely with Oliver Letwin, Sir Jeremy Heywood and other colleagues in the Cabinet Office and around government as we tackle the big issues ahead.”

Robbins joined the civil service as a fast streamer in 1996, working for 10 years in the Treasury before moving to Number 10 as the principal private secretary for Tony Blair and then Gordon Brown.

In July 2010 he was appointed deputy national security adviser, and in 2013 was involved with government’s attempts to intercept files containing documents leaked by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

In 2014, Robbins was appointed head of civil service reform. At the time of that appointment, a government insider speaking to CSW described Robbins as “one of the superstars of Whitehall, seen as very, very close to [cabinet secretary] Jeremy Heywood".

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