Mini reshuffle leads to major government restructuring

Tue 7 Feb 2023
Posted by: Richard Cree
Trade News

Street sign for Downing Street

The prime minister, Rishi Sunak, has announced plans for his first mini cabinet reshuffle since taking office. After just over 100 days in office, he has returned to pledges made when he was running for the leadership last summer to also make changes to the structure of government.

DIT no more

The headline change is the replacement of the former Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), with a new Department for Business and Trade.

The new department will merge the business support elements of BEIS with the responsibilities of the Department for International Trade (DIT), which was set up by Theresa May in the aftermath of the Brexit vote in 2016, to promote Britain’s global trade ambitions and help secure new free trade agreements (FTAs).

Kemi Badenoch, currently secretary of state for international trade, has been announced as the new secretary of state for business and trade. She also remains President of the Board of Trade and Minister for Women and Equalities.

Marco Forgione, director general of the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) welcomed the move, “The merger of the trade and business departments is an opportunity to better integrate exports within the wider UK growth strategy,” he said.

Badenoch stays

Forgione added that he was also pleased to see Badenoch retain the key trade post. “We are delighted to see Kemi Badenoch retain the trade portfolio while taking on an expanded remit within government, as this will ensure continuity on trade policy and strategy.”

There is further commentary on the reshuffle from IOE&IT here.

Sunak also announced the creation of a new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, again a return to pre-2016 status quo, with energy as a standalone department. This was also a promise made by Sunak in his 2021 bid for the leadership. Former business secretary, Grant Shapps, will be secretary of state for energy security and net zero.

Other moves

As part of the reshuffle, Sunak also announced a new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, which will spearhead the UK’s science and technology strategy. It will include some of the work previously spread across BEIS and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Former secretary of state for DCMS, Michelle Donelan, will be the first secretary of state for science, innovation and technology. Lucy Frazer replaces Donelan at DCMS.

In other news, former trade minister Greg Hands has been promoted to replace Nadhim Zahawi as Tory Party chairman and minister without portfolio. Further ministerial appointments are expected to be announced throughout the day.