Not All Civil Servants are Remainers – Some Whitehall Experts Support Brexit

by ukcivilservant

I don’t know the proportion, but it is worth noting that a number of recent and current Whitehall officials do indeed support Brexit for various reasons.

One set is concerned by what is (inaccurately) described as the sovereignty issue.  This was best explained to me by the late Nicholas Ridley who drew an analogy with the hunger marchers who in 1936 walked all the way from Jarrow on Tyneside to protest the Government’s economic policies. He was genuinely appalled at the thought that future protestors would have go to Brussels to protest EU-wide policies that impacted their welfare.

A related argument which appeals to many civil servants is that it is a good thing for nations to be able to compete with each other by offering different mixtures of social and employment security, regulation, tax rates and so on.  Only in that way can we see which combination works best and/or suits particular cultures. Homogenous continent-wide legislation can stifle innovation (for instance in new financial services) and can end up annoying, in all sorts of ways, the very different populations of the very different member states.

Another, no doubt overlapping, set of officials are scarred and demoralised by their interaction with the Brussels machine – in very much the same way that it is difficult to find many UK local authority employees or politicians with a good word to say about Whitehall.

And a fourth set believe that the UK will indeed be much better trading outside the Single Market and Customs Union. I have recently been privileged to read the thoughts of Tony Lane – a genuine trade expert who previously worked in the business departments as Director General (Trade Policy) where he managed the launch of the Uruguay Round. He later went on to head up the departments’ industrial policy side. On retirement, he worked as a consultant on trade policy to many governments in Europe and around the world. He circulated a number of pro-Brexit notes before the the referendum (which I have gathered together here)  and has subsequently commented on the Brexit negotiations.  Although I am myself a Remainer, I do commend Tony’s notes as eloquent expressions of the case for Brexit – much more eloquent, in my view, than those of Brexit politicians.

Martin Stanley

Understanding Regulation Website