Defra permanent secretary Clare Moriarty is switching to the same position at the Department for Exiting the European Union, the cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill has announced.
Moriarty's move comes following Philip Rycroft's retirement from the civil service, and comes at a critical juncture for the government with Brexit just three weeks away.
The search for a replacement for Moriarty will begin in due course, with Tamara Finkelstein, who is currently leading on Defra’s EU exit preparations, acting as permanent secretary at Defra until a successor is appointed.
Of Moriarty's appointment at DExEU, Sir Mark said: "Clare Moriarty is an experienced and highly-effective permanent secretary, who has led Defra with great distinction. She has a deep understanding of the practical and policy challenges and opportunities of Brexit. I am delighted that Clare will be leading DExEU through the next phase and playing a central role in the entire government effort. I am also pleased that she will continue to lead vital components of the Civil Service’s corporate agenda, including as faith and belief champion.
Moriarty added: "It’s an honour to be asked to lead the Department for Exiting the European Union at such an important time for the UK. We have a massive agenda ahead of us and I look forward to working with Stephen Barclay and the excellent team in DExEU to chart the way forward.
"It’s 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, as interim permanent secretary, and the senior team will provide stability and leadership over the coming months to enable the department to deliver its critical work."