Free market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) has poached Shanker Singham and three of his team from rival firm Legatum.
Singham, who is widely seen as one of the top Brexit policy advisers and has played a key role in guiding the government's thinking on the issue, will head up the IEA's new International Trade and Competition Unit as director.
Lawyer Victoria Hewson, economist Catherine McBride and senior research analyst Radomir Tylecote will join Singham at the IEA later this month.
City A.M. understands that Singham had been seeking an alternative base from which to continue his work on Brexit after having his "wings clipped in a big way" following reports that he had helped write a letter by foreign secretary Boris Johnson and environment secretary Michael Gove.
One Westminster source said: "This is amazing news, and will get the Brexit process back on track. The guys on the clean Brexit side will have the arguments they need to push civil service to do exactly that and push against [Remainers] like Philip Hammond.
"One of the reason things started to go off track a bit towards late 2017 and early 2018 was because Shanker wasn’t there to keep things on track […but…] ministers rely on outsiders such as Shanker to point out things civil servants have missed out, or where they've tried to pull wool over eyes."
Singham's new unit will build on the IEA's core areas of expertise "to make positive contributions at a pivotal time for the UK, making the intellectual case for the removal of trade barriers with the rest of the world".
It will also lead on the IEA’s work on Epicenter– an independent initiative of eight leading think tanks from across Europe – and have responsibility for the IEA’s output on financial services.
Mark Littlewood, IEA director general, said: “I’m absolutely delighted that Shanker and his team are joining the Institute at a crucial time for the UK as it prepares to leave the European Union. It is vital that we educate politicians and the wider public about the benefits of free trade and open markets, reject protectionism and that we build on our proud history of being an independent, free-trading nation.
"I have huge admiration for the work Shanker and his team have done at the Legatum Institute. Under Philippa's leadership, Legatum have gone from strength to strength, becoming thought leaders in crucial policy areas of which trade is only one. I look forward to continuing our strong relationship with them, and to Shanker and his team continuing their work at the IEA.”
Singham added: "As our country takes the first steps towards implementing its own independent trade policy, trade policy knowledge will be at a premium. At the same time, ensuring that we embrace competition as opposed to cronyism in this country and around the world is crucial to creating wealth and lifting people out of poverty.
"We look forward to being a resource to all who need us in the trade, competition and regulatory policy space."