LONDON — The top civil servant at the Department for Exiting the European Union has left his role after just one year, eighteen months before Brexit.
Oliver Robbins has left the post of Permanent Secretary at DExEU to focus on a job as Brexit co-ordinator in Downing Street a week before the fourth round of Brexit negotiations begin, the Evening Standard newspaper reported.
It was reported at the beginning of September that there was a “schism” between Robbins and Brexit Secretary David Davis over how Brexit should be dealt with, with the pair apparently having opposing styles.
The permanent secretary had allegedly annoyed the Brexit secretary by making decisions without his approval.
Robbins had previously been combining his role as head of DExEU with that of advising Prime Minister Theresa May on Brexit, while also devising the UK’s negotiating strategy.
Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said: “Moving key individuals at this critical time adds a whole new dimension to the government’s chaotic approach to Brexit. Deep divisions in the Cabinet and a complete lack of leadership are putting the national interest at risk.”
The permanent secretary at DExEU is highly thought of in Brussels, with an EU source saying that he was “doing his best” despite the circumstances the UK negotiating team find themselves in.
A government spokesperson said: “In order to strengthen cross Government coordination of the next phase of negotiations with the European Union, the Prime Minister has appointed Oliver Robbins as her EU Adviser in the Cabinet Office, in addition to his role as EU Sherpa.
“He will continue to lead the official-side UK team in the negotiations, working closely with the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [Davis], and coordinate relations with the Commission and member states.”
Philip Rycroft, who is currently Robbins’s deputy at DExEU, will take over as permanent secretary and Robbins will participate in the fourth round of Brexit negotiations.
The news came after a weekend in which Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson laid out his vision for a “glorious” Brexit, which was seen as a challenge to May.
On Monday morning the prime minister refused to publicly criticise the foreign secretary, despite Johnson being rebuked by the UK Statistics Authority for his use of figures.
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