The Civil Service are working under the clock to deliver Brexit. This letter by Mark Sedwell Head of the Civil Service was leaked as blurry images by Sky News. It is retyped for clarity.
It is just two months since the new government took office and it has been an intense period. All of you and the civil servants you lead have worked with your customary dedication, notably those of you involved in the transition to the new government and Brexit preparations. I hope you were able to recharge your batteries in advance of a turbulent autumn.
The new government has set an ambitious agenda and a breakneck pace as they develop their domestic programme and seek to deliver Brexit by 31 October. I am really proud of how the Civil Service has responded, particularly in accelerating Brexit preparations, demonstrating once again that we deserve our rating as the world’s best civil service. Ministers are also pleased and impressed, and have seen the resilience of the system over the summer period while maintaining the pace of delivery. With only a few weeks to the crucial October European Council and the decisions thereafter, we must step up another gear. I am spending much of this month on the road to see the wider public service leadership and our partners in the private sector and civil society country-wide to ensure I understand clearly the challenges and pressured at the sharp end.
You will understand that I cannot offer a running commentary on the Brexit process and politics. Negotiations to secure a new deal are underway while we continue to prepare for no deal. The new legislation and yesterday’s Supreme Court judgement obviously affect the political context but those events must not distract us from the programme of work. The Prime Minister has been clear that, while disagreeing with both the legislation and judgement, in all circumstances the Government will uphold the constitution and obey the law.
I realise this is an unsettling period. Brexit polarises public opinion and civil servants are not immune from those pressures. The record level of public trust in the Civil Service is a precious asset we must all protect. At the heart of that trust is the citizen’s confidence in our commitment to our values, and to our serving with integrity the governments they elect. Our advice must be candid. Our attitude must be can-do. Rest assured, I am mindful of my own constitution responsibilities, but I will continue to resit attempts to draw Civil Service into the argument. These are political issues and they are for politicians to resolve.
Whatever happens in the next few weeks, Brexit is not just a deadline. The programme doesn’t conclude our departure from the EU. Indeed, that’s when the main effort comes into focus: negotiating new deals with the EU and the other major global economies, reorientating our post-Brexit economy for the challenges and opportunities of zero-carbon and the technological revolution, navigating in a world in which the centre of gravity is shifting to the Pacific, improving the resilience and inclusiveness of our society and wellbeing of our citizens, keeping them safe and fulfilled.
Together, we lead an extraordinary institution in extraordinary times. Please make sure you find the time to talk through the content and challenges with your teams and with colleagues from across the public service. That will also give confidence to our people, as we equip ourselves to deliver the programmes on which this and future governments are elected.
Finally, thank you in advance for all your work over the next few months. I am proud to lead such a brilliant team.