Brexit minister Oliver Letwin leaves government after being branded ‘completely unsuitable’ for the job

By on 14/07/2016 | Updated on 24/09/2020

Oliver Letwin, the minister in charge of the UK government’s Brexit Unit who was branded as “completely unsuitable” for the job by former cabinet secretary Andrew Turnbull, has left the government.

His departure was announced as part of a big ministerial reshuffle in which Britain’s new prime minister Theresa May appointed her new cabinet.

Letwin’s Brexit duties will now be carried out by David Davis, the new secretary of state for exiting the European Union, whose newly created post was announced yesterday.

The 30-strong Brexit Unit, which has hitherto been part of the Cabinet Office, will “now morph into” the government’s new Brexit department, which “came into existence last night and is being set up at the moment,” a Cabinet Office spokesman told Global Government Forum.

The Cabinet Office unit, the spokesman added, was set up as a “forerunner of the new department.”

Asked when the new ministry will be fully operational and how many civil servants will staff it, the spokesman said: “It’s an ongoing process.”

The creation of the new Brexit department comes despite warnings by the Institute for Government think tank and the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) which yesterday published a letter to civil service head Sir Jeremy Heywood and ex-Brexit minister Letwin.

The new department, PACAC argued would either have “to be given such extensive powers over other government departments, with the potential for conflicts at the centre, or it would too easily be marginalised.”

The process of leaving the EU “is a whole-of-government project,” according to the letter, should happen “as swiftly as possible.”

Former Europe minister Davis said in an online piece published yesterday that Article 50 should not be triggered before the beginning of next year, allowing the government enough time to consult the devolved administrations, employer groups and unions to form its negotiation strategy.

His predecessor Letwin was described as the wrong fit for the role Turnbull, who was head of the civil service and cabinet secretary between 2002 and 2005.

Giving evidence at a Treasury select committee hearing earlier this month, he suggested that Letwin’s close ties to Cameron made him a bad candidate to oversee the new unit.

He said: “In my view, [Letwin] is completely unsuitable to do that job in the longer term.

“He has spent the last six years as a kind of consigliere to the prime minister — has been absolutely at the heart of Number 10.

“That is not the profile that is needed for carrying this work forward.”


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See also:

Brexit: UK government should try to win back officials from European Commission by offering ‘more than competitive pay’, committee says

A guide to Brexit, part 1: how Britain voted to leave the EU

A guide to Brexit, part 2: What’s the process for negotiating a British exit from the EU?

A guide to Brexit, part 3: Who’ll run the negotiations?

A guide to Brexit, part 4: Is Britain’s departure from the EU inevitable?

A guide to Brexit, part 5: What is the likely outcome of Brexit?

Is the EU referendum result a wake-up call for employers?

Olly Robbins appointed head of government’s new Brexit unit

Oliver Letwin ‘completely unsuitable’ to lead Brexit unit, says former cabinet secretary

Brexit will be ‘largest legal, legislative and bureaucratic project in British history’, says former UK Treasury Solicitor

Clash over civil service advice in EU referendum

Bank of England’s independence under threat in EU referendum row

EU issues Poland with official warning over constitutional court changes

Sir Paul Jenkins, former UK Treasury Solicitor: EU Referendum interview

Managing the EU Migration Crisis

European Parliament orders Poland’s government to reverse changes to country’s top court

A family reunification dilemma for the EU

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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