David Cameron has set up a special “Brexit Unit” to draft options for what the UK will actually do after it quits the EU.
But Downing Street sparked ridicule when it revealed that Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin – who famously put official papers in a park bin – was the man who would lead cross-Government work on the new unit.
Following an emergency Cabinet meeting, No.10 said that the new Whitehall grouping would be based in the Cabinet Office and staffed by civil servants ranging from the Foreign Office to the Treasury.
The Brexit Unit, which will have to do the work that Leave campaigners believe the Government should already have prepared in advance, will report directly to the Cabinet on a regular basis.
The Prime Minister's official spokeswoman said that the new unit was needed to work on the details of how to extricate the UK from the myriad of legal and other commitments to the EU.
"The civil service, as we were clear in the run-up, had not done contingency work on what that would be," she said.
"Now we can start the work, mandated by the prime minister and this government, to put the UK in the best possible positions for those negotiations and for our future relationship with the European Union.
"The PM has moved to get this unit up and running and to get Cabinet support for that.
"The work is in order to make sure we have done the ground work. So it is about preparing advice on a whole range of issues…where the civil service should be ready to give advice."
But the spokeswoman also revealed that Letwin was in charge of cross-Whitehall liaison and links with bodies outside Government.
"Alongside this 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."
David Cameron himself reassured MPs in the Commons that Letwin would have no role in the Tory leadership race during the coming months.
But the Cabinet Office minister was ridiculed when the Daily Mirror discovered during the last Government that he had dumped key official papers - and constituents' letters - in a bin near his Whitehall office.
The hapless minister had to apologise for the blunder and was dubbed 'minister for bins'
Although seen as a good negotiator and fixer by Cameron, not least for his role in sorting insurance deals in the wake of the floods, Letwin has made repeated gaffes.
He has been dubbed 'king of the clangers'.
In 2003, he declared: “In Lambeth where I live, I would give my right arm to send [my children] to a fee-paying school.”
Earlier this year, it emerged that as a young Downing Street adviser he had suggested that “bad moral attitudes” had caused the Broadwater Farm riot in the 1980s.
He had said that any resources invested encouraging black entrepreneurs would only disappear into “the disco and drug trade”.
Today, Twitter was merciless in its reaction at his new importance.
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