“Today was the most extraordinary day in British politics – since yesterday,” quipped a colleague 24 hours ago.
It certainly summed up the reaction of many – ministers and civil servants included – at the tumultuous events of the last week.
I campaigned to stay in the EU. So, naturally, we didn't get the outcome in the referendum that I wanted to see. But, along with other members of the Government, I have heard what the people of this country have said, and respect the result. We are a democracy if we are anything.
Cabinet agreed on Monday to implement the result of the referendum.
Our job now is to secure the best possible terms for the UK’s exit and our future place in the world. It’s a critical mission and one that I'm sure the Civil Service will rise to.
From Monday, the new EU Unit begins its work in earnest, led by Permanent Secretary Oliver Robbins. Oliver will report to Cabinet and will need to recruit the brightest and best talent to his team, to ensure we are fit for the negotiations and constitutional challenges that lie ahead. It’s going to be hard – of course it is – but as a challenge, it’s not unprecedented.
More than a century and a half ago, Northcote and Trevelyan set in train the Civil Service that we know today. It’s testament to their vision that we have forged a world-class organisation underpinned by laudable principles: objectivity, impartiality, honesty and integrity.
And it’s this organisation of talented, committed and professional people that will redraw the lines of history and reshape the world that our children and grandchildren will inherit and, I hope, flourish in.
We must keep driving the domestic agenda forward. There is much to do to deliver existing government business and prepare for the changes that lie ahead. More than ever, we’ll need to keep our focus on saving public money, delivering more for less, tackling inequality and improving public services for people right across this nation.
Our vision for 'A Brilliant Civil Service', launched at Civil Service Live last month, embodies exactly the objectives that we need to aim for to achieve the challenges ahead: bolder, more nimble, less bureaucratic and truly innovative. I have every confidence you will succeed in these ambitions and would like to thank you for all that you do.