FDA union chief blasts “paranoia” of pro-Brexit MPs complaining about the civil service

Defence of officials comes after pro-Brexit MP Steve Baker calls for a new law to make it easier to sack Europhile civil servants

By Josh May & CSW staff

29 Aug 2016

Eurosceptic MPs convinced that civil servants are preparing to thwart the Brexit process are indulging their “paranoia”, according to the leader of the union that represents senior Whitehall officials.

A number of top pro-Brexit figures have spoken of their concerns that the civil service could attempt to hinder the departure from the European Union.

Steve Baker, who led the Conservatives For Britain anti-EU campaign, called for new legislation to make it easy to sack any officials thwarting the process.

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“Any official working to oppose our exit from the EU should be summarily fired,” the Tory MP said. “If necessary, emergency legislation should be passed to make it possible.”

Former cabinet secretary Lord O’Donnell sparked the ire of eurosceptics over the weekend when he told the BBC that he did not believe Brexit was inevitable.

The now-crossbench peer told the Today programme: “Lots of people will say, ‘We’ve had the referendum, we’ve decided to go out, so that’s it, it’s all over’. 

“But it very much depends what happens to public opinion and whether the EU changes before then. It might be that the broader, more loosely-aligned group is something that the UK is happy being a member of.”

Meanwhile, a Downing Street source told The Telegraph that civil servants — who were explicitly banned from making contingency plans for Brexit by the last government — had been given their “marching orders” and would be “expected to deliver” on EU withdrawal.

But Dave Penman, the general secretary of the FDA union, pushed back against the anti-civil service rhetoric, and said pro-Brexit politicians appeared to be “looking for people to blame” already.

“This is about paranoia, and just dreaming up future betrayals by civil servants that haven’t actually happened,” Penman told the Financial Times.

On Wednesday, Theresa May will chair a meeting of her cabinet at the prime minister's Chequers residence, with ministers expected to contribute ideas on how they can make a success of Brexit in their particular policy areas.

The meeting takes place amid reports of division over the nature of Britain's departure from the EU, with chancellor Philip Hammond said to believe Britain should not ruling out staying in the single market — a stance that would set him at odds with eurosceptic trade secretary Liam Fox and David Davis, the secretary of state for exiting the European Union. 

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