Brexit attacks on civil service are reminiscent of 'pre-war Nazi Germany'
Brexit The Observer Brexit attacks on civil service are reminiscent of 'pre-war Nazi Germanyâ
Ex-cabinet secretary attacks tactics of leading Brexiters who have accused Whitehall of sabotaging UKâs exit from EU
Leading Brexiters who accuse civil servants of sabotaging Britainâs exit from the EU are adopting dangerous tactics similar to those of rightwing German nationalists between the two world wars, a former head of the civil service has warned.
In a stark assessment of the acute tensions developing over the issue, Andrew Turnbull, who led the civil service under Tony Blair, said that Whitehall officials had become the victims of âpre-emptive scapegoatingâ by Brexiters who feared they were losing the argument.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the new leader of the European research group of Eurosceptic Tory MPs, has suggested that Treasury officials could be deliberately trying to frustrate Brexit. Yesterday he repeated a claim that the Treasury was âfiddling the figuresâ to emphasise the downside of a âhardâ Brexit in which Britain would leave both the single market and customs union.
Former chancellor Nigel Lawson also recently claimed that officials would attempt to frustrate Brexit because they were opposed to âradical changeâ.
Lord Turnbull is among a number of senior figures concerned about attacks on the civil service, with many worried that the atmosphere will deteriorate further as more difficulties emerge.
Robin Butler, another former cabinet secretary, said he believed the actions were part of a deliberate âBrexiteer process of intimidationâ.
Turnbull told the Observer that the attacks on Whitehall were reminiscent of the âstab-in-the-backâ myth, which emerged in Germany after the first world war and was later taken up by the Nazis.
ââDolchstossâ means âstab in the backâ,â he said. âAfter the first world war there was an armistice, but the German army was then treated as the losers. Then, at the start of the Nazi era, the âstab-in-the backâ theme developed.
âIt argued that âour great army was never defeated, but it was stabbed in the back by the civilians, liberals, communists, socialists and Jewsâ. This is what I think these critics are trying to do. They are losing the argument in the sense that they are unable to make their extravagant promises stack up, and so they turn and say: âThings would be OK if the civil service werenât obstructing usâ.
âWhen you donât succeed, you find someone to blame for your failure.â
Tensions are running high before a crucial week for Brexit, during which t he prime minister and key cabinet ministers will meet over two days to hammer out details of a final deal that can keep all Tory factions on board. The stakes are high, with Theresa May under huge pressure to make her plans clearer.
Insiders said officials were examining options that would reduce delays at the UKâs border without keeping it fully inside the EUâs customs union. The crunch point is whether there is any way Britain can strike up a customs agreement that stops chaos at the border but also allows some flexibility for the government to sign its own international trade deals.
Rees-Mogg made clear yesterday that there could be no limits placed on Britainâs ability to strike deals. He repeated his claim that the Treasuryâs Brexit models were politically influenced.
Butler said there was a âmovement among the rabid Brexiteers to point the finger at the civil service, which I think is completely unjustifiedâ.
He added: âIt is unwise on the part of the Brexiteers, because the government canât do this operation without the civil service. To demonise them isnât really very sensible.âTopics
- The Observer
- Civil service
- European Union
- Foreign policy
- Jacob Rees-Mogg
- Share on Facebook
- Share on Twitter
- Share via Email
- Share on LinkedIn
- Share on Pinterest
- Share on Google+
- Share on WhatsApp
- Share on Messenger
- Reuse this content