Brexit negotiation team reduced to less than a quarter of size under Theresa May

Boris Johnson understood to have ordered "streamlining" of manpower to avoid complexity

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Tuesday 03 September 2019 20:59
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Berlaymont building, headquarters of the European Union Commission in Brussels
Berlaymont building, headquarters of the European Union Commission in Brussels

The UK’s Brexit negotiation team has been sharply reduced from the numbers deployed under Theresa May, it has emerged.

Sky News reported that there are now only 24 people working with chief negotiator David Frost, who is due to resume discussions in Brussels on Wednesday in what prime minister Boris Johnson describes as an “intensification” of talks on a new withdrawal deal.

This amounts to less than one-quarter of the more than 100 officials who worked under his predecessor Olly Robbins at the height of negotiations on Ms May’s ill-fated withdrawal agreement.

The reported reduction in manpower is likely to spark renewed allegations that Mr Johnson is not taking the negotiations seriously, following earlier claims - denied by Number 10 - that the PM’s adviser Dominic Cummings had described the talks as a “sham”.

Downing Street declined to confirm the current size of Mr Frost’s team.

But it is understood that Mr Johnson took the decision to “streamline” the numbers involved in order to avoid complexity and duplication.

Officials from other departments working on Brexit have been told to support Mr Frost’s work, while he will also draw on the existing workforce at the UK’s permanent representation in Brussels, known as UKREP.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: "David Frost will be accompanied to Brussels by a small team of civil servants with relevant Brexit, trade and legal expertise.

"They will be supported by the UKREP team already based in Brussels.

"The team intend to run through a range of issues with Taskforce 50, including the backstop."

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