Civil service chief slams ‘sniping’ against Brexit negotiator Olly Robbins

Posted On: 
16th October 2018

Britain’s top civil servant has rallied to the defence of Theresa May's under-fire Brexit negotiator Olly Robbins.

Sir Mark Sedwill said civil servants were 'doing our duty'.
Louise Haywood-Schiefer

In a highly unusual public intervention, acting Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill said those launching anonymous attacks on the Prime Minister's EU adviser “should be ashamed of themselves”.

Mr Robbins has increasingly attracted the ire of Brexiteers, who see him as a key driving force behind the Prime Minister’s controversial Chequers Brexit plan.

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In a Times article published this weekend, the top adviser was referred to as “secretive”, “cliquey” and “not a team player” - while the paper cited Tory MPs as blaming him for an “establishment plot” to thwart Brexit.

But, hitting back in a rare public letter to The Times, Sir Mark praised his colleague’s “extraordinary dedication and professionalism”.

“However, the anonymous sources on whose sniping it also draws should be ashamed of themselves, especially in a week when another senior civil servant reported having been threatened because of comments about Brexit implementation,” he said.

Sir Mark's intervention comes after the boss of HM Revenue and Customs revealed that police were investigating a string of death threats made against him after he warned about the potential cost of Brexit plans.

The acting Cabinet secretary added: "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."

Sir Mark - who is stepping into the shoes of Sir Jeremy Heywood while the cabinet secretary undergoes treatment for cancer - is seen as a highly-trusted aide by the Prime Minister, having previously served as her top official at the Home Office. ​

Under the civil service code, officials must have ministerial sign-off for any contact with the media.