Chief Brexit negotiator Olly Robbins to quit after new Prime Minister takes over

Posted On: 
30th June 2019

Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator, Olly Robbins, is to quit his role shortly after the new Prime Minister takes over in July.

Olly Robbins seen on Whitehall earlier this year
Credit: 
PA Images

The senior civil servant is understood to be ready to leave the top post after briefing Theresa May’s successor, with The Mail on Sunday reporting that will take up a major job in the City.

Tory leadership contender Jeremy Hunt told a hustings in Manchester that the situation presented “a good moment to change our approach” in negotiations over Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

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“I didn't agree with the approach that we took in a number of areas of the Brexit negotiations", he said.

“I was a loyal Cabinet minister - I think it's very important the Prime Minister has a loyal Foreign Secretary - but I wasn't a believer in the backstop and I didn't believe it would get through Parliament, so I think this is a good moment to change our approach.

“I'm not going to say something about a civil servant who I know works incredibly hard, even though there are issues I disagree with him on.

“But I do think now is a moment that we have to get this right, deliver a different deal and one that can actually get through Parliament.”

Mr Robbins, who was appointed by Mrs May, has been regularly criticised by Brexiteers over his role in negotiating her Brexit deal, which was rejected three times by the Commons.

His decision comes as a Sunday Times interview revealed that Mr Hunt has lined up former prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, to lead his negotiating team in a bid to win a Canadian-style free-trade deal with the EU.

The paper adds that in turn Mr Johnson has asked Jacob Rees-Mogg, attorney-general Geoffrey Cox and Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay to draw up his Brexit blueprint as part of a US presidential-style “transition team” if he becomes PM.

Mr Robbins’ move comes amid a host of top mandarins quitting their roles in the wake of the change at Number 10.

Tom Shinner, director of policy and delivery coordination at the Department for Exiting the EU, and Karen Wheeler, director general of Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs Brexit border delivery group, have both announced they will stand down.

Best for Britain CEO Naomi Smith said of Mr Robbins’ decision: “First the No Deal planner goes, now the top Brexit negotiator. Getting rid of Olly Robbins is like rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic.

“The problems caused by Brexit won’t go away. The only way to make them stop is to cancel Brexit.”