UK cabinet secretary defends chief Brexit negotiator

By on 23/10/2018 | Updated on 24/09/2020
Mark Sedwill: standing up for Theresa May's EU adviser from attacks

UK cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill has publicly defended civil servants negotiating the UK’s exit from the European Union from attacks by politicians.

Sedwill wrote to The Times newspaper responding to an article in which anonymous Brexit-supporting Conservative MPs accused prime minister’s EU adviser, Olly Robbins of having a “Rasputinesque hold” over his boss.

The cabinet secretary said of the article that “the anonymous sources on whose sniping it also draws should be ashamed of themselves.”

He said: “This has to stop. Civil servants have always trusted that our fellow citizens, whatever their views, know that we are doing our duty to implement the decisions of the governments they elect.”

Robbins and his team, Sedwill said, had brought “extraordinary dedication and professionalism” to the negotiations over the UK’s departure from the EU.

Cease and desist

However, the letter seems to have done little to quell the attacks on the UK’s top negotiator.
Speaking on radio station LBC this week, Nigel Evans, MP for Ribble Valley criticised May because “she’s listened to Olly Robbins, who’s got Europe running through his veins.”

In a separate intervention, former MI6 head Sir Richard Dearlove wrote to the Times in a riposte to Sedwill’s letter.

“It is not critics of the once great British civil service but members of that service in No 10 who need to cease and desist,” he said.

He added that Robbins had “serious questions of improper conduct to answer” for failing to control his defence adviser Alastair Brockbank, who was recorded “seemingly advocating hoodwinking the 17.4 million Britons who voted Leave while covertly working to lock UK defence and security under EU control after Brexit”.

Death threats

In his letter, Sedwill also drew attention to comments by HM Revenue and Customs’ permanent secretary Jon Thompson, who reportedly told a session at think tank Institute for Government that he had received two death threats.

The threats came in the wake of evidence he gave to the Treasury select committee in May that a technical solution to the Northern Ireland border question could cost up to £20bn a year.

Separately, Sir Amyas Morse, comptroller and auditor general of spending watchdog the National Audit Office has told MPs that Whitehall staff were being left in the dark over Brexit due to government secrecy.

He told the Treasury select committee that civil servants are “using our reports to find out what’s been going on about Brexit”.

About Colin Marrs

Colin is a journalist and editor with long experience in the government and built environment sectors. He cut his teeth in local newspaper journalism before moving to Inside Housing in 1999. He has worked in a variety of roles for built environment titles including Planning, Regeneration & Renewal and Property Week. After a spell at advertising industry bible Campaign magazine, he became a freelancer in 2010. Since then he has edited, local government finance publication and contributed news and features to Civil Service World, Architects’ Journal, Social Housing, management titles and written white papers for major corporate and public sector clients.

One Comment

  1. Jane theaker says:

    A divorce is never pretty. Uglier still when the kids get dragged into it

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