British official in charge of Brexit Border preparations leaves her job

Karen Wheeler had previously criticised the idea that technology could prevent a hard Border

A view of the Border between counties Fermanagh and  Monaghan. File photograph: Bryn Colton/Bloomberg

A view of the Border between counties Fermanagh and Monaghan. File photograph: Bryn Colton/Bloomberg


The British official who was in charge of Brexit preparations for the Border, Karen Wheeler, has left her job, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said on Thursday.

“I would like to thank Karen for her outstanding work leading the Border Deliver Group to prepare the UK for [its] EU exit and we wish her well for her retirement,” Jonathan Thompson, HMRC chief executive, said in a statement to Reuters.

“We shall be announcing her successor in due course,” he said. Ms Wheeler did not respond to a request for comment and the reason for her departure was unclear.

Ms Wheeler’s job was to ensure that the UK’s borders remained efficient and secure as it exits the EU. She was the lead co-ordinator across the British government on ensuring a “frictionless” Irish Border after Brexit.

The UK could be heading towards a constitutional crisis as many of the candidates vying to succeed prime minister Theresa May are prepared to leave the EU on October 31st without a deal with the bloc, but parliament has indicated it will try to thwart such a scenario.

Mrs May’s failure to deliver Brexit by the original March 29th deadline destroyed her premiership. But the next prime minister, expected to be in place by the last days of July, will face the same deadlocked political system.

That has raised concerns among investors and business leaders that the UK could be heading for an abrupt, no-deal exit from the EU for which it is not yet ready.

Ms Wheeler said earlier this year that there was no magic technological solution for preventing a hard Border in Ireland after Brexit.

She said the UK would need a customs union with the EU, plus something that looks like a single market, to have completely free movement of goods across the Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic following its exit from the bloc. – Reuters