Whitehall looks for private sector bidder to give civil servants lessons in international trade lingo ahead of Brexit negotiations

Ashley Coates
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Whitehall's workers will be going back to school ahead of Brexit discussions (Source: Getty)

Civil servants will be given a crash course in the language of international trade ahead of the UK’s departure from the European Union.

Whitehall officials are looking for a private sector bidder to deliver training across government on “the key areas and terminology of international trade policy”, according to a new tender document published this week.

As the government gears up for Brexit negotiations later this year, officials are looking to implement a new “learning programme” for civil servants across all Whitehall departments.

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The professional services giant KPMG has already been commissioned to “design a trade policy and negotiation learning offer” for the Foreign Office and Department for International Trade.

Now another procurement offer, published earlier this week, states that the government aims to “provide staff across Whitehall departments with a thorough knowledge of the key areas and terminology of international trade policy and the trading priorities of the UK and its key partners”.

This new contract has been offered by Civil Service Learning, a division of the Cabinet Office with responsibility for learning across the whole civil service.

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“At the end of the learning staff will be able to effectively use these knowledge and skills to support and deliver the UK’s international trade policy priorities and negotiating agenda in the UK and overseas,” the tender states.

The UK’s membership of the EU has meant very few staff in Whitehall have been engaged in international trade in recent years, a problem highlighted by former UK permanent representative to the EU Sir Ivan Rogers in his bombshell resignation letter earlier in the month.

Boris Johnson’s Foreign Office has been given additional funding from the Treasury to build capacity in trade negotiations, alongside the new Department for International Trade.

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As long as the UK remains a member of the European Union it is forbidden from forging its own trade deals, meaning the new Department for International Trade is restricted to scoping out possible future deals after the UK has left the EU in 2019.

The countries believed to be taking an interest in post-Brexit trade agreements include New Zealand, China, Australia, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

Theresa May will also discuss a potential new US trade deal when she meets President Trump tomorrow.

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