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Civil Service

This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

The Civil Service and the EU referendum

Sir Jeremy at the Civil Service Board meeting, January 2015
Sir Jeremy Heywood

On Friday I wrote to all civil servants setting out our responsibilities following the result of the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.

This is obviously a time of uncertainty for the country, for political parties and for the Civil Service. So I wanted to give you some more information on how we will support the Government in taking forward the public’s decision to leave the EU.

The first thing we have done is to appoint Oliver Robbins as the new head of the EU Unit in the Cabinet Office. Oliver brings with him a wealth of international and negotiating experience, including most recently from his time in the Home Office.

The unit will draw on the very best talent from across the Civil Service, as set out by the Prime Minister. It will report to the Cabinet on delivering the outcome of the referendum and will have responsibility for establishing options for our future relationship with Europe and the rest of the world from outside the EU.

During the negotiation period, it is vital that government continues to deliver. The Cabinet agreed earlier in the week to continue to pursue all of the Government’s manifesto. It is essential that we continue to support its implementation and normal business as usual.

Of course, some things will change. All EU-related business, no matter how routine, will need to be handled carefully for as long as we remain a member of the EU. But for many civil servants our work will not be directly affected. We will continue on the path to becoming the Civil Service set out by our vision, while maintaining the high quality of service that the public have come to expect.

There is no doubt that we face a significant challenge. But throughout my Civil Service career I have found that it is precisely when civil servants are under the greatest pressure that they are at their best – adjusting rapidly to new priorities or unexpected events, and finding clarity in complexity. That is what we need to do now – working methodically through the issues so that the new Prime Minister and the new Government will have all the information and advice they need.

I am absolutely confident that if we stick together and do our jobs, taking one step at a time, we will help support the country through this period.

Follow Sir Jeremy on Twitter: @HeadUKCivServ

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  1. Comment by Steve Dancer posted on

    Steve D at HMPO
    On Brexit, I hope we can take a pragmatic path with EU regulations. Do we need to plod through every single one and decide whether to keep it or ditch it or replace it with a UK reg? Hope not. There will be prime candidate EU regs for replacing or revising, and these will likely emerge during the exit process. Of the rest, some, maybe most, will be doing a useful job and we could leave these in place and review later.

  2. Comment by William MoD posted on

    As a Scottish person working in England – will I get deported back north of the border?

    What a farce this whole situation has become…..!
    If it wasn't so serious, it’d be funny.

  3. Comment by Mike posted on

    Sir Jeremy is of course correct that as Civil Servants we must work to implement the decision that has been taken however I feel that the tone of this message fails to reflect that we are also humans that will have had views on this and the result. Compare Sir Jeremy's messages with the ones from Sir Richard Heaton, Pem Sec of the MoJ. Sir Richard acknowledged that people are divided on this and expressed concerns about some of the xenophobia that has been expressed (and offers advice on where to report it). I think Sir Jeremy could take a lesson from Sir Richard on communicating with us as individuals who are also engaged in society rather than regarding us as Civil Servants and nothing more.

  4. Comment by Vanessa posted on

    I have noticed on the Civil Service Jobs website under "Nationality Requirements" that the EU has disappeared, while EEA is still there. However the EU still exists and for the time being the UK is still part of it! I will try and report it to the media

  5. Comment by Sos the Rope posted on

    Does the Civil Service and Government in general then explicitly rule out the possibility that Parliament will vote not to invoke Article 50?

  6. Comment by K Naisbett posted on

    With all of this EU talk, has anybody wondered how the EU nationals working for the Civil Service will fare? I have. I have been working for the MOJ since 2000 and became a civil servant when the Magistrates' Courts went from local authority to civil service BUT I am not British. Should I be worried? Will I be required to apply for a working permit or for citizenship?

  7. Comment by Douglas Bateman posted on

    Dear Sir Jeremy,

    Following the momentous decision of the electorate to exit the EU, I write to seek your assurance that a bill will be drafted to repeal the European Communities Act 1972.

    Kind Regards,

  8. Comment by Charlotte Smith posted on

    Regarding this new EU Unit, will job vacancies be openly advertised for all civil servants to apply for the roles which are required, or is this a hand picked selection process of people already working in Whitehall? Can we have transparency and more information on how the new EU Unit will be put together.