Defra is set to lose a second key member of staff at a critical time for farming as the department’s top civil servant, Clare Moriarty, has been poached by the Department for Exiting the EU.
Ms Moriarty’s departure, announced less than a month before the UK is due to leave the EU, follows the loss of Defra’s longest-serving minister ever, George Eustice, just six days ago.
57-year-old Philip Rycroft, who is stepping down as the Department for Exiting the EU’s permanent secretary, has been responsible for most of the Government’s no-deal Brexit preparations.
He now plans to quit on Brexit day.
It is believed Ms Moriarty was chosen to replace him due to her experience of similar planning at Defra.
Ms Moriarty said: “It has been my immense privilege to lead Defra for the last three and a half years, and my respect and admiration for colleagues across the Defra group is profound.
“We have led the way in preparing for EU exit while also progressing the Government’s commitment to improve the environment within a generation, and continuing to deliver vital services for our customers.”
Tamara Finkelstein, Defra’s director general for EU exit delivery, is to become interim permanent secretary after Ms Moriarty leaves.