Published on 16 September 2019
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Brexit  •  Government

Former Brexit chief takes research role at Cambridge University

Philip Rycroft, the former head of DExEU, has been appointed as a distinguished honorary researcher at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy and POLIS at the University of Cambridge. He will play a major role at Cambridge, advising on research programmes on the governance and constitution of the UK and reflecting on what Brexit means for both.

Before leading DExEU, Philip Rycroft was a senior insider during the Coalition government of 2010 to 2015, and one of the most experienced advisors in British government on devolution – he brings with him a wealth of insight into the workings of government and public policy. His tenure starts in September 2019 when he will begin as Senior Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy and POLIS.

Philip will begin his appointment at Cambridge with a public lecture on the makings of Brexit, and the road ahead for the UK on 03 October 2019. He commented: “My talk will describe the challenges that will come in the next stages of Brexit, and ask how the policy response to these relates to the discontents that drove the vote to leave the EU. It will also ask what the government’s current approach means for the future of the United Kingdom – if, indeed, the United Kingdom has a future.”

Professor Michael Kenny, Director of the Bennett Institute, commented: “Not just in the UK, but across the world, we live in increasingly unpredictable and turbulent times. These are generating major challenges to our systems of governance and policy-making. To address these we need to bring together the most experienced and insightful practitioners and leading academic experts. We are therefore delighted to announce that we will be working with Philip Rycroft, one of the most far-sighted and respected officials from UK government, and incorporating his deep understanding of government into our research and teaching in public policy. My expectation is that, in partnership with him, we can develop a deeper understanding of, and better potential solutions to, some of the major challenges which Brexit poses for our state and constitution. Philip will also be leading our thinking about the UK’s place in the world after Brexit.”

Philip Rycroft worked in the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) between March 2017 and March 2019, serving from October 2017 as its Permanent Secretary. This appointment followed a distinguished career in the civil service working in Scotland and London, in the European Commission and in business. At Cambridge he will conduct research on the constitutional and institutional implications of Brexit, and the underlying causes of the EU referendum and its outcome. He will also be taking the opportunity to reflect more deeply on some of the pressing challenges facing the governance of the UK at this unusually fraught time – the importance of ‘place’ to public policy, the nature of devolution within it, and the future governance of England. 

This work will allow him to reflect more deeply on his time as head of the UK Governance Group in the Cabinet Office, where he advised ministers on the constitution and devolution from June 2015 to March 2019, and his period as Director General in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg from May 2012 to May 2015.

Philip Rycroft said: “I look forward to bringing my extensive experience of government into dialogue with the exciting new research programmes being developed at the Bennett Institute. I hope to work with some of Britain’s leading academics to deepen understanding of how government works, and how it might work better, and to consider the implications and consequences of Brexit for our politics and constitution.”

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy.

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