Brexiteer attacks on Treasury are like Nazi era 'stab-in-the-back' myth, says former civil service chief

Posted On: 
3rd February 2018

A former head of the civil service has accused pro-Brexit MPs of behaving like 1930s German nationalists in their attacks on Whitehall officials. 

Lord Turnbull said attacks on the Treasury were reminiscent of interwar Germany

Former cabinet secretary Lord Turnbull spoke out after repeated claims from Brexiteers that the Treasury is deliberately trying to frustrate the process of leaving the EU.

Yesterday prominent eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg argued that mandarins were "fiddling the figures" to produce damaging forecasts.

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Lord Turnbull claimed the criticism of civil servants was reminiscent of the 'stab-in-the'back' myth that blamed German Jews and leftwingers for the country's defeat in World War I.

“After 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 ‘stab-in-the back’ theme developed," the peer told the Observer.

“It argued that ‘our great army was never defeated, but it was stabbed in the back by the civilians, liberals, communists, socialists and Jews’.

"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: ‘Things would be OK if the civil service weren’t obstructing us’.

“When you don’t succeed, you find someone to blame for your failure.”

Another former cabinet secretary, Lord Butler, claimed eurosceptics were engaged in a fruitless campaign of "intimidation" against officials.

“It is unwise on the part of the Brexiteers, because the government can’t do this operation without the civil service. To demonise them isn’t really very sensible," he said.