FCO “Crisis No Deal Response”: Go On Holiday

Yesterday’s story about the penny dropping at the FCO that Brexit was really going to happen on October 31 triggered the FCO press office into claiming that they had, of course, been training people on trade policy since 2016.  Unfortunately for the junior press office spinner trying to sell the line that this was just an expansion, Guido’s FCO sources suggest otherwise…

It’s all getting a bit hairy over at the FCO, departments are now being told that more and more staff will have to be deployed – unexpectedly – for Brexit related duties. Many unhappy senior staff are having to decide what they will have to stop doing to compensate for redeployed staff and resources…

Simon McDonald, the FCO’s Permanent-Under-Secretary, has written to staff telling them; “Preparing for a no deal response will become the FCO’s main effort… our EU exit work has to intensify across the FCO.” He goes on to tell them that the FCO Crisis Centre will be coordinating the effort – which tells you all need to know about the FCO’s attitude towards Brexit. Peter Jones, the FCO’s Chief Operating Officer, is coordinating the change in priorities with directors. As if it should not have been the priority since June 2016…

McDonald concludes “Preparing for October is the professional challenge of our lives” before going on to finish his missive “I hope, like me, you manage to take some leave over the summer in preparation for a busy autumn.” No sense of urgency even though a no deal Brexit has belatedly “become the FCO’s main effort”…

Foreign Office Steps Up No Deal Planning

Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff have been sent a memorandum by the Head of the Diplomatic Service Sir Simon McDonald. It reveals that staff will be moved from current roles to work on No Deal from the middle of February. Talented and experienced individuals are being poached to be deployed in EU impact areas. Non EU-Exit work is being ‘delayed, dropped or done differently’…

A co-conspirator has told Guido that Remainer FCO staff are “very down, across the grades” and that morale is low. Apparently the threats to be moved to Brexit duties not going down well with staff…

Stepping up our No Deal planning
Yesterday the FCC’s Executive Committee (ExCo) agreed to intensify our contingency planning to manage a No Deal scenario. This includes working with Directorates to release staff from the ‘20%’ Directorate Crisis Lists for a potential No Deal response from mid-February (the 18th is pencilled in), as well as identifying experienced individuals to be deployed to EU Exit impacted areas outside of the Crisis Centre and to new short-term roles in the Europe network. The latter could require up to 5% of staff.

This will have a significant impact on Directorates so we will need to be rigorous in our prioritisation of non-EU Exit work. Prioritisation guidance for Directors will follow shortly to help them make decisions about what non-EU Exit work to delay, drop or do differently. We will also need to adapt the way we work, including relying more on Posts, devolving decision-making to more junior levels and streamlining central processes.

As part of this work, colleagues in HR Directorate have been looking carefully at what changes they can make to HR policies and processes More detail on this will follow next week.

It looks like the Foreign Office is finally accepting we are leaving. Not only that, they realise it might be on ‘no deal’ terms…

Foreign Office’s Top Civil Servant in Spectacular Amritsar Blunder

Simon McDonald is the permanent secretary at the Foreign Office. He is its top civil servant. He thinks the Golden Temple in Amritsar is a mosque. Almost unbelievably, this tweet was up for 10 hours before anyone at the FCO thought to correct it. McDonald grovels: “I was wrong: I am sorry”. Foreign Office gaffes don’t come worse than that…

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Peter Mandelson tells Emma Barnett…

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