Former civil service chiefs hit out at hard-Brexiteers

Posted On: 
20th October 2018

Two former cabinet secretaries have today criticised hard-Brexiteers in the Conservative Party for attacking civil servants.

Mark Sedwill Acting Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill hit out at hard Brexiteers earlier this week over criticism of Oliver Robbins.
Credit: 
PA Images

In letters to The Times published today, Lord Armstrong and Lord Butler - who both served as Cabinet Secretary under Margaret Thatcher - condemned attacks on Oliver Robbins, the Prime Minister’s top Europe adviser. 

Lord Armstrong said the blasts at Mr Robbins “must stop” and criticised hard Brexiteers for attacking the “organ grinder’s monkey”. 

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

Theresa May urged to sack top Brexit adviser Olly Robbins ahead of customs union showdown

Theresa May provokes fury from Tories over Brexit extension proposal

Saying that Mr Robbins had his full support, Lord Armstrong said the top official was "doing his duty as a civil servant in exceptionally difficult circumstances: none of us can remember anything like it.”

He added: “Those who wish to undermine or frustrate the prime minister’s policy objectives should concentrate their fire on the organ grinder, not on the organ grinder’s monkey.”

Meanwhile Lord Butler, who served under the Thatcher, Major and Blair governments, said that those attacking Mr Robbins were “not acting in the national interest.” 

“The civil service has had no choice but to be drawn into Brexit and deliver the policy decided by elected politicians” he said. 

“But to suggest that they are responsible for that policy is entirely wrong.”

The letters follow accusations that Mr Robbins, who previously served as permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting the European Union, was threatening to frustrate Brexit. 

Former Brexit Minister Steve Baker claimed to have resigned because of the influence of Mr Robbins’ Europe Unit. 

On Tuesday, acting Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill called on Conservatives to halt the “sniping” and “shameful attacks” on Mr Robbins.