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IFG A Ministry for Brexit may not be the best option

Theresa May, the next Prime Minister (PM), has publicly stated that she favours a ‘Minister for Brexit’. A new report finds that there are several options available to her.

The report, published yesterday by the Institute for Government, finds that:

  • The PM must appoint a senior colleague to do much of the heavy lifting for them around Brexit. The arguments strongly point to this being a dedicated Brexit Cabinet Minister.
  • The PM will need to decide whether they want the ‘Minister for Brexit’ to focus on the preparation for, and negotiation of, Brexit, or whether they want them to take on wider responsibilities for policy areas like trade.
  • If the Minister’s responsibilities are focused on the negotiations, then the overwhelming case is for them to be supported by a Cabinet Office unit.
  • If the Minister has wider responsibilities for policy areas, then there is a stronger case for creating a fully-fledged Ministry for Brexit. However, there are serious operational drawbacks to this option – in particular the time, cost and distraction that would inevitably come from creating an entirely new organisation.
  • This may imply the need for a staged approach – with the new Ministry for Brexit being housed within the Cabinet Office initially, and being established as an independent organisation later as attention moved from the negotiations to the implementation phase of Brexit.
  • Whatever the institutional arrangements, it is people who will make these structures work. Whitehall will need to make sure the right people are in the right roles at the right time to deliver Brexit.

Julian McCrae, Deputy Director of the Institute for Government, said:

“Preparing for, negotiating and implementing Britain’s exit from the European Union will inevitably preoccupy Whitehall and the new government in the coming months and years. Theresa May will soon be deciding how to organise Whitehall to negotiate and implement Britain’s exit from the EU. The arguments point strongly to appointing a dedicated Cabinet Minister for Brexit.

If the new PM does decide to create a new Ministry, then this should be housed in the Cabinet Office initially to avoid the vital first few months being dominated by the cost and distraction of setting up a new organisation from scratch.”

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