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Civil servant appointed to oversee north's Brexit plans in absence of executive

Senior civil servant Andrew McCormick will give evidence to the RHI inquiry in the new year.

A SENIOR civil servant has been appointed as Director General of International Relations for Brexit, working in the absence of political representation at the planning stages of the north's exit from the EU.

Dr Andrew McCormick, is currently the permanent secretary of Stormont's Department for the Economy, a post he has held since early 2014.

As the most senior official when the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme was approved, he claimed in January that influence was exerted from a former DUP adviser to the first minister who wanted to keep the scheme open at the higher rate of payment, even after the flaw in the scheme had been identified.

Recipients of the RHI were receiving about £1.60 for every £1 spent on burning wood fuel.

The scheme has landed the public purse in Northern Ireland with a projected £700m overspend over the next 20 years.

Dr McCormick said at the time: "The consequence is very serious because this shows that there was premature awareness of the potential for the tariff to be reduced and the message went within the sector - 'get in quick'."

He will be called to give what is expected to be key evidence to the ongoing RHI inquiry at Stormont in the new year.

Despite his new role, Dr McCormick will retain his rank and salary within the civil service, but he will help with the crucial government planning stage for Brexit, filling a void currently left by Northern Ireland's collapsed executive.

A spokesperson said the Executive Office "decided to create this new position of Director General, International Relations, reflecting the increasing challenges of Brexit".

“This is a key post for the Northern Ireland Civil Service.

“Dr McCormick will take up his post in February and in addition to Brexit, he will also have responsibility for Brussels, Washington, Beijing and the North-South Ministerial Council in Armagh."

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