The Brexit department will officially no longer lead the negotiations with Brussels, Theresa May revealed as she confirmed a Downing Street takeover of the talks.
In a statement published just hours before MPs go on their six-week summer break from Parliament, the Prime Minister revealed the Number 10 land-grab.
In a further sidelining of the new Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, the Europe Unit in Downing Street – headed up by civil servant Olly Robbins – is now in charge of the “preparation and conduct of the negotiations”, and will take staff from the Department for Exiting the European Union (DexEU).
The written statement was published just minutes after Raab had updated MPs in the Commons about the Government’s plans for Brexit.
The statement says that while DexEU will lead on the Government’s preparations for Brexit, including for a “no deal” scenario, it is now the Prime Minister who has complete control of the talks with Brussels.
The statement, written by May, reads: “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.”
Jenny Chapman, Labour’s Shadow Brexit Minister, said: “Dominic Raab has been side-lined by the Prime Minister before he has even had the change to get his feet under the table.”
Speaking before MPs on the Brexit Select Committee, Raab insisted there was “one team, one chain of command”, and there had been “some changes in staffing of the Whitehall deck-chairs.”
He later added that he was aware the statement was being published, and May had suggested the reorganisation when he was offered the job of Brexit Secretary.
He said he and May “quickly came to an agreement” over the plans.
Tory MP Craig Mackinlay, a former Ukip leader who campaigned for Brexit, told Robbins he believed that had been a Remain takeover at the heart of Government.
“Quietly, somewhere, there was a coup d’etat going on between either the proper DexEU department or Europe department in the Cabinet Office.”
Robbins said he did not recognise Macklinay’s characterisation of events.
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