Brexit News: Sky Niall Paterson challenges Lord Kerslake on civil service

Sky News host Niall Paterson challenged Lord Kerslake on the claims that a biased civil service is working to “undermine the Brexit process”.

This follows reports today that Brexit Secretary David Davis has told Theresa May he will step down unless the No 10 adviser Oliver Robbins is sidelined during Brexit talks.

He is understood to be frustrated that the Prime Minister is set to back a customs partnership with the EU, a plan put forward by Mr Robbins. 

Mr Davis has since come under pressure from the senior civil servants’ union to disown the claims. 

This morning, Paterson pointed out to Lord Kerslake, who served as the civil service head between 2012 and 2015, that every living former Cabinet secretary voted against the Government in the House of Lords last week.

The Sky News anchor questioned the peer on whether “the civil service is Remain”. 

Lord Kerslake tried to defend the Whitehall bureaucrats. He said: “Up until a few years ago we have to remember that was substantive Government policy.

“All civil servants backed the policy to stay in the European Union.

“There has been a remarkable shift in recent years and the civil service has had to come to terms with that.

“They pride themselves on being professional and doing the job of supporting the Government.

“They will want to deliver a good Brexit because that is Government policy.”

Paterson fired back: “When the House of Lords defeated the Government, the week before last, every living former Cabinet secretary voted against the Government.

“Armstrong, Butler, Wilson, Turnbull, O’Donnell, Lord Kerr who proposed the amendment and was joined in voting for it by his two successors at the Foreign Office.

“It does seem as though those who have moved on from the civil service are going their very best to stymie the process of Brexit.”

Lord Kerslake denied this, adding: “The votes against the Brexit bill are not saying that Brexit cannot happen.

“If it happens, it has to be done in a way that doesn’t damage the interests of the country, as peers.

“They are entitled to challenge the Government. The idea that there is a Trojan Horse inside the civil service who is working to undermine Brexit is a very bad place for any politician to get into.”

Attacks upon Mr Robbins have sparked a furious response from civil servants.

Dave Penman, the head of the FDA union, said: “Is there a more despicable form of political cowardice than to allow anonymous briefings in your name to effectively call for a civil servant to be sacked?”

Current Cabinet secretary Jeremy Hewood tweeted this morning: “The Civil Service will always be true to its values – honesty, integrity, impartiality and objectivity.”

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