Crack squad of civil servants to handle Brexit
A NEW civil service unit led by Oliver Letwin, a Cabinet Office minister, has been established to prepare the way for negotiations on Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.
The creation of the new team was approved by an emergency Cabinet meeting called to assess the fallout from Friday’s shock referendum vote to leave the EU.
Mr Cameron told ministerial colleagues that the referendum verdict had been decisive and that the Government’s priority must now be to deliver on it.
The unit will feature civil servants drawn from the Cabinet Office, Treasury, Foreign Office and other Whitehall departments.
Number 10 said it will “work on the issues that will need to be worked through in order to present options and advice for the new prime minister and new Cabinet”.
The spokesman added that “Oliver Letwin will play a facilitative role hearing views from across the government and outside on issues that need to be considered by the new unit”.
Mr Letwin is a senior Cabinet Office minister who is asked by Mr Cameron to settle rows about contested policy areas, notably how to implement the findings of the Leveson report into the media. Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Cameron said that decoupling the UK from the EU would be a “massive national endeavour” for the civil service. He said that the unit would have advising it “the best and brightest from the civil service”, adding “it is also important that we get the best and brightest from the private sector whether it is lawyers, financial or trade experts”.
He said: “We want all of this expertise to come forward in what is going to be a massive national endeavour.”
Although the Treasury has worked with the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority to plan for the immediate economic impact of a Brexit vote, Downing Street reiterated that the civil service had not done separate contingency work for the wider process of withdrawal.
Lord Kerslake, the head of the Civil Service from 2011 to 2014, has warned that ministers may need to “fundamentally” rethink the government’s policy of cutting civil service numbers so that officials can deal with the challenge of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. The peer told Civil Service
World magazine there could be capability gaps at the Foreign Office, Cabinet Office, the Treasury and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to handle the negotiations.
Oliver Letwin has settled contested policy areas such as the Leveson report