Staff numbers at the Department for Exiting the European Union have risen to 450 and are continuing to grow rapidly as the Brexit negotiations get underway, according to the latest update from the department.
Responding to a parliamentary question on the size of the department from Labour MP Hilary Benn, who chaired the Brexit select committee before the election, Brexit minister Robin Walker confirmed the increase, which is up from the 322 that permanent secretary Olly Robbins reported to MPs in March.
Walker said the department was “recruiting the brightest and the best from across the civil service, the wider public sector and the private sector” and was still “growing fast” following the official start of the exit negotiations last week.
“The Department for Exiting the European Union now has over 450 staff, and is growing fast,” he said.
In another response to a written question from Democratic Unionist MP Jim Shannon, Walker said: “The department undertakes regular resource reviews to ensure that we are appropriately resourced to deal with the task at hand. We will ensure we have the right skills to get the best deal for the UK.”
In a separate departmental response to a question from Labour MP Catherine West asking for details on the gender balance of the Brexit negotiating team, DExEU minister Steve Baker confirmed just two of the senior civil servants who took part in the first round of the negotiations on 19 June were woman.
The department had faced criticism for the make-up of the team sent into the talks, which included more men with beards than women.
According to Baker, the only two females in the negotiating team that took part in the initial talks were Catherine Webb and Catherine Adams, both from DExEU. The group was led by Robbins and the UK’s permanent representative to the European Union Sir Tim Barrow.
As well as Webb and Adams, the group included Glyn Williams (Home Office), Alex Ellis, (DExEU), Mark Bowman, (Treasury), Simon Case (UKRep), Jonathan Black (Treasury), Chris Jones (DExEU), Daniel Denman (DExEU), Matt Baugh (DExEU) and Ian Walsh (DWP).