The announcement that their department – and jobs – would cease to exist was made a week before Christmas.
The decision to shut down DExEU, despite Britain remaining in the EU customs union and single market until the end of this year, came as a surprise, with the Whitehall department still trying to recruit when it was informed it would be shut down.
A statement from Number 10, issued on Thursday 19 December, said: "The Department for Exiting the European Union will be wound up once the UK leaves the EU on 31 January."
It added: "DExEU staff have been spoken to today. We are very grateful for all their work and we will help everyone to find new roles."
Barely six weeks later, DExEU has been wound up.
Created by Theresa May in the aftermath of the EU referendum result in 2016, the department became notorious for its high staff turnover rate.
Conflicts with May over Brexit prompted the resignations of Brexit Secretary David Davis and his successor Dominic Raab.
And last year staff turnover doubled to 40 per cent, up from 20 per cent the previous year, according to the Institute for Government think tank.
Victims of circumstance
This evening we said goodbye to @DExEUgov. A Government department like no other, and a dedicated team of Ministers and civil servants. To everyone who worked in DExEU over its lifetime, a huge thank you - and good luck for wherever the next phase takes you #StarburstDExEU pic.twitter.com/6q01g0tTG7— Clare Moriarty (@ClareMoriarty) January 31, 2020
DExEu’s 739 staff were a mix of individuals on secondment from other government departments and people recruited from outside the Civil Service.
Although many have returned to the departments they came from, or have found new roles elsewhere, about 250 employees are left with no idea what the future holds.
They are in limbo in a ‘resourcing hub’ at the Cabinet Office which will seek to match people up with possible jobs.
It is not clear how long they will wait for a new job, or how much choice they will have in terms of where they move to.
Victoria Jones, the national officer for DExEU at FDA, the Civil Service trade union, said its members had "worked exceptionally hard, despite the often challenging political climate, to deliver the agenda of the Government".
She added: "Now, as DExEU closes its doors, the focus has to shift to supporting staff into new jobs that ensure the skills, expertise and experience gained over the last three-and-a-half years is kept within the Civil Service."
However, Jones added: "Members I have spoken to have shared their concern over the lack of certainty about where they would be moving to next."
As of last Friday, staff were "still unclear where they’ll be going longer term" and a sizable number "are in limbo", she said.
The situation will "leave a bad taste for people who have had an otherwise good experience working on the biggest challenge in modern times".
Jones said: "The commitments made by DExEU – to ensure that our members are able to find meaningful, appropriate roles within the Civil Service – must be honoured. Prolonged delay risks forcing these talented public servants away from where they are needed most."
In contrast to the trade union representing many DExEU staff, the department’s press office did not comment when approached by PRWeek.
In an email copied to the Cabinet Office, it declined to answer a series of specific questions about the fate of the department’s staff.
DExEU's work still needed
In a statement to MPs yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson reconfirmed that DExEU had been closed, and said: "Those of its functions which are still required have been transferred to relevant government departments."
He added: "The administration of the closure of DExEU is being carried out by the Cabinet Office."
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