Former top mandarin describes Brexit as ‘swapping a three-course meal for a packet of crisps’

Posted On: 
27th February 2018

An ex-senior civil servant who served under Liam Fox has described Brexit as “swapping a three-course meal for a packet of crisps”.

A former civil servant who worked under Liam Fox has spoken out about Brexit
Credit: 
PA

Martin Donnelly, who quit as permanent secretary of the International Trade department last March, said the UK risked losing its “economic advantage” by leaving the single market.

He also dismissed the Government’s assertion that it can secure all the benefits of its current trading arrangements with the EU during Brexit negotiations as “something for a fairy godmother”.      

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In an intervention that is humiliating for his former boss, the ex-mandarin is set to give a speech in London tomorrow mocking Dr Fox’s Brexit plans.

It will follow the International Trade Secretary’s own address today in which he will set out his opposition to Britain joining a customs union with the EU.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, Mr Donnelly said: “The challenge if we choose not to stay in the single market is can we negotiate equal access in all those areas of services without agreeing to the same rules as everybody else?

“And I am afraid I think that is not something for a negotiation, it’s something for a fairy godmother – it’s not going to happen.

“You’re giving up a three-course meal, which is the depth and intensity of our trade relationships across the European Union and partners now, for the promise of a packet of crisps in the future if we manage to do deals outside the European Union, which aren’t going to compensate for what we are giving up.

“You have to look at the arithmetic, it doesn’t add up I’m afraid.”

In his address today, Dr Fox will say that joining a customs union with the EU would be “selling out” and Britain must instead “exploit” new trading opportunities outside the bloc.