Theresa May has informed Parliament that she is taking personal control of EU withdrawal negotiations, with new Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab “deputising” for her in talks.
The Europe Unit led by Olly Robbins in the Cabinet Office, which reports direct to the Prime Minister, will have “overall responsibility for the preparation and conduct of the negotiations”, drawing on support from Mr Raab’s Department for Exiting the EU, she said.
In a statement in Parliament shortly after being appointed as David Davis’s replacement earlier this month, Mr Raab made clear he accepted his role as the PM’s deputy in negotiations with Brussels.
Asked whether he would be “calling the shots” in his new job, the Brexit Secretary told the House of Commons last week: “No, it is the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.
“I will be deputising for the Prime Minister in the negotiations.”
In a written statement to the Commons, Mrs May spelt out how the change to operations will work.
“DExEU will continue to lead on all of the Government’s preparations for Brexit: domestic preparations in both a deal and a no-deal scenario, all of the necessary legislation, and preparations for the negotiations to implement the detail of the Future Framework,” she said.
“I will lead the negotiations with the European Union, with the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union deputising on my behalf.”
“Both of us will be supported by the Cabinet Office Europe Unit and with this in mind the Europe Unit will have overall responsibility for the preparation and conduct of the negotiations, drawing upon support from DExEU and other departments as required.”
“A number of staff will transfer from DExEU to the Cabinet Office to deliver that.”
Mrs May said that DExEU will recruit some new staff to work on preparations for Brexit, while a number of Cabinet Office officials will move over to the department.
There will be no net reduction to staff numbers in Mr Raab’s department, she said.