The Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) is setting up two new crack teams to deliver intelligence on how the EU is thinking and help push its message across the bloc.
They will work over the next two years on creating a “long term grid of activity across EU Member States” which will keep British relations on the continent in good shape during and after Brexit.
However, the plans are likely to raise fears amongst some EU officials that the UK is once more trying to open up splits within the bloc in an attempt to undermine Michel Barnier’s negotiating position.
Details of the new strategy appear to have been leaked by accident in the job advert, which is for two communications chiefs who will each be paid up to £60,500 per year.
One will lead what is called the “insight and evaluation team” – a group of officials who will work to build up an “understanding of our key audiences to direct engagement in Europe”.
The job description says that this manager will “oversee the evaluation of the campaign using lessons learnt to refine approaches, always delivering best value for money”.
Meanwhile, the second senior official will be placed in charge of the “strategic planning” team, which is to be tasked with building up a network of relations across Europe the UK side can exploit.
As well as politicians, such a unit could also look to build up new contacts within powerful lobby groups representing industry and business, tourism, the transport sector, defence and other key sectors.
The advert states: “You will lead the team tasked with strategic planning and governance for the unit, working with stakeholders across Whitehall. You will have oversight of the long term grid of activity across EU Member States.”
The move suggests that DExEU, which is a brand new department only created in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, is going to focus more intently on bilateral engagement with EU member states in the future.
Up until now it has been largely pre-occupied with domestic firefighting as the Government was plunged into chaos when Theresa May lost her majority in June’s snap General Election.
The new strategy also chimes with noises coming out of Number 10, which seems to be increasingly reaching across the Channel to national capitals in an attempt to break the Brexit talks deadlock.
Chancellor Philip Hammond hosted the Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban for bilateral talks this week, whilst Mrs May is set to deliver a make or break speech in not London, but Florence, at the end of the month.
It is thought that the PM may pitch a proposal drawn up with French president Emmanuel Macron which would allow Britain to pay transitional fees for Single Market access rather than a complete Brexit bill.
The plan would see UK taxpayers continue to stump up around £10 billion a year to the EU for the next three years, but would avoid the grand ‘global amount’ of up to £90 billion proposed by the Commission.
It already apparently has the backing of Paris and British officials may be confident of getting countries like the Netherlands, Denmark and Ireland – who all have close trading ties – on board too.
However, it is believed Germany and the Commission would want more, with one British diplomat close to the negotiations saying the proposal has the potential to drive a stake into the EU’s thus far unified position on Brexit.
Last month a separate DExEU job advert revealed for the first time that the Prime Minister was planning to set up a “UK Trade Remedies Organsiation” after Brexit and to bring a keynote bill on trade before Parliament this Autumn.