Ex-Foreign Office perm sec hits out at Boris Brexit ‘flippancy’

Sir Simon Fraser says that the lack of an agreed government position on the future relationship with the EU left the UK unable to conduct a negotiation effectively

Photo: Jack Lawson

By Emilio Casalicchio

29 Jun 2018

An ex-Foreign Office boss has condemned Boris Johnson for his “flippant” approach to Brexit and his recent attack on business.

Sir Simon Fraser – who served as permanent secretary at the department between 2010 and 2015 –  lashed out at the foreign secretary in the wake of the row about Airbus.

Johnson was said to have responded to Brexit warnings by the global manufacturing giant by saying: “F*** business.”


Sir Simon said: “I was unhappy with what Boris Johnson said about business… I thought it was inappropriate and not constructive in the Brexit debate.

“Brexit is a very serious issue affecting our country and it needs to be addressed by politicians in a serious way.”

He also hit out at Johnson’s appeal against what he called a “bog roll Brexit” - which the Cabinet minister warned would be “soft, yielding and seemingly infinitely long”.

Speaking at the annual conference of global asset manager Amundi, Sir Simon warned that there was little time for “flippancy” with Brexit just around the corner.

“It’s coming down the road quite rapidly. We are now only five months away from November, when we are supposed to have a deal,” he said.

“There isn’t a line in government agreed on what sort of deal we want with Europe and therefore we not in a position to conduct a negotiation effectively. This is not the time for flippancy about Brexit.”

Johnson was said to have made the crude remark at an event for EU diplomats in London last week after Airbus said it could be forced to move its operations out of the UK in the event of a hard Brexit.

He later refused to deny the claim, telling MPs in the Commons he had “from time to time expressed scepticism about some of the views of those who profess to speak up for business”.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt also blasted Airbus, saying the warnings – as well as those from BMW – were “completely inappropriate”.

But prime minister Theresa May slapped down both her Cabinet ministers when she told bosses: "A Conservative government will always listen to your voice and back you every step of the way as you help grow our economy and create more good jobs.”

Read the most recent articles written by Emilio Casalicchio - Labour ends Brexit compromise talks with government

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