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Government 'in chaos’ as Brexit department boss to quit on EU departure date

Government 'in chaos’ as Brexit department boss to quit on EU departure date
3 min read

Pro-EU campaigners have blasted the Government after it emerged the top civil servant in the Brexit department will quit the day the UK leaves the EU.

Philip Rycroft will retire as permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting the European Union on 29 March after just over a year in the role.

It means the office will soon be on its third boss in less than three years, after former permanent secretary Olly Robins was moved to the Cabinet Office in 2018.

Labour MP and People's Vote campaigner Jo Stevens said the personnel moves at the top of the department were "a reflection of the whole Brexit process – shambolic and doomed to fail".

Her Labour colleague and Best for Britain supporter Virendra Sharma said the country did not need “more chaos and disruption” as Britain quits the bloc.

“That the department tasked to deliver Brexit can’t even keep its permanent secretary in the month we are supposed to be leaving the EU is quite telling," he fumed.

“It just shows the sheer incompetence of the Government’s tortured Brexit project.”

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake wished Mr Rycroft well in his retirement, but added he would “prefer to see the whole Brexit shambles retired instead”.

Paying tribute to his colleague, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said: “I would like to thank Philip Rycroft for his excellent leadership of the department, initially as sdecond permanent secretary and subsequently as head of the department since October 2017.

“Under Philip’s guidance, the department has been at the heart of the government’s preparations for a smooth and orderly exit from the European Union, and to deliver the mandate of the people.”

The Prime Minister also sent her thanks to the Whitehall boss for “all of his service”, as did Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill.

Clare Moriarty, the current head at the Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs, will move to lead the Brexit department.

Ms Moriarty said: "It’s an honour to be asked to lead the Department for Exiting the European Union at such an important time for the UK.

"We have a massive agenda ahead of us and I look forward to working with Stephen Barclay and the excellent team in DExEU to chart the way forward."


The Whitehall switch-up comes as British officials came back from Brussels empty-handed on a solution to the question of the Irish backstop.

An EU note leaked to Buzzfeed News said the latest round of talks led by Attorney General Geoffrey Cox were “negative”.

In the Commons this morning, Mr Cox said he was “surprised” after EU bosses told Britain to produce "acceptable" ideas.

He said talks on the backstop - an insurance mechanism to ensure no hard border on the island of Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit - were likely to continue over the weekend.

He told MPs: “We are discussing detailed, coherent careful proposals, we are discussing text with the European Union.

“I am surprised to hear the comments that have emerged over the last 24 hours that the proposals are not clear, they are as clear as day and we are continuing to discuss them.”

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