Tuesday, April 16, 2024
HomeNewsLong in the planning – Whitehall’s anti-Brexit coup

Long in the planning – Whitehall’s anti-Brexit coup


Rachel Sylvester of The Times has felt the need to rush to the defence of Whitehall against nasty Leavers.

She belittles their criticism and says that civil servants are merely neutral continuity people who don’t like change. That is surely a very generous view of how Whitehall has behaved throughout the referendum campaign, and since the shock result. The key text for interpreting Whitehall has to be its own FCO 30 / 1048, penned in 1971 by the mandarins and revealing their wholehearted support for Heath’s slow-burning coup of moving sovereignty away from the national Parliament and into the management bureaucracy of Brussels. They knew this was going to happen, approved of it, and hid it for decades from the public under the Official Secrets Act, knowing it would be rejected at an election if openly declared to the voters.

I apologise for repeating my reference to this document, but it is the deep background to what is now causing our nation such turmoil and division. The method used by Heath was to deceive the public and let the impact take effect gradually and under cover of Parliamentary process which it slowly ate up. That is clearly happening now as Mrs May uses the same method: giving an overall picture but covering up the harsh realities of her agreement. I wish to focus on the issue of the integration of officials between the UK and Brussels as predicted in the document. Since there would be two centres of power, co-operating all the time, officials would intertwine: there should be no surprise that Whitehall is now shown to be Euroholic to its very roots; that was the expectation and hope of the mandarin class. And they gained in power by this move to a management type of running a nation, rather than democratic accountability and transparency. Let’s look at some of the Whitehall Ministries in this light.

The Treasury has been a core Remainer SAS hit squad against Brexit at the heart of government, headed firstly by George Osborne and then by fundamentalist Remainer Philip Hammond. Forgive here an extended quotation. It is by the Labour Peer and former Treasury mandarin Lord Kerslake, whose report finds the Treasury locked into ‘groupthink’, lacking diversity of thought – as we have all learned since the vote. Here is its verdict:

[48] It is clear that the Treasury did a great deal of work in the run up to the EU Referendum which was directed towards making the Government’s case for Remain. Even allowing for the exceptionally highly politically charged atmosphere during the campaign, including the concern about too many ‘experts’, the public reaction to the Treasury’s analysis was unprecedentedly hostile. The response to the first post decision forecast in the 2016 Autumn Statement was much the same. Even though Treasury forecasts were in line with those of other external forecasts, it is hard not to see this reaction as a major challenge to the department’s credibility and as potentially a consequence of departmental cultural hubris.

[49] In line with Government policy, the Treasury’s work did not include detailed preparations in the event of a decision to leave the EU. It is now clear that the Treasury, and indeed the rest of the UK Government, is unprepared and under-resourced for the tasks it faces in the immediate future and for some years to come.

Remainer Groupthink runs through the Treasury as through a stick of rock; it is a thoroughly politicised agency refusing still to plan and act in terms of technology for export and import movement ready for No Deal. Its staff is chock-full of youthful Blairite graduates totally lacking in economic and financial expertise and actual experience of trading practices. Here is the heart of Project Fear, launched during the Referendum campaign by the Treasury, and still firing its bullets against any Brexit facilitation. It is clearly in need of radical reform, as Kerslake concluded. It has failed, rather refused, in its duty to plan early for all contingencies, thus recklessly causing unnecessary extra risk to the British economy.

The Ministry of Defence is clearly and outrageously ‘on manoeuvres’ against Brexit and indeed is desperate to surrender control of our military to EU agencies, all with no Parliamentary scrutiny or debate. This is now well evidenced, although our MPs have, again, made nothing of it and are content that the public be hoodwinked in what is effectively an administrative coup, as explained by Gwythian Prins. A speech by the new Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, was published and tacked on to it as a ‘Technical Note’, slipped in furtively by the Department of Exiting the EU to disguise its enormity. This ‘Technical Note’ spells out the Government’s ambitions for a ‘deep and special partnership’ with the EU in defence and security after Brexit. Alastair Brockbank, a young civil servant in the MoD and special adviser to Olly Robbins, was exposed in the Sun as describing Whitehall as hatching a plan akin to a Kit Kat, with superficial Brexit chocolate covering up the UK’s continued ties to Brussels, and deepening these ties, secretly. The language is important: ‘a deep and special partnership’ resonates with the Chequers aim for a ‘deep trading relationship’ with Brussels – Olly Robbins’s fingerprints perhaps? Brockbank’s taped conversation, disclosed to the Commons but apparently ignored, is scary: ‘What will happen is that because we are seeking this future agreement during the IP [Implementation Period], we are negotiating the detail of that at the same time as we are discussing the political high level fluffy bits that will go into any declaration that gets made public. So there are some kind of handling issues around there.’ Here we see the classic deception of the British people yet again, and in plain sight of MPs. The full text of the Brockbank tapes can be read in the Appendix to Prins’s article in Briefings for Brexit, and we can see what can only be described as a bureaucratic conspiracy against the democratic nation state, a coup which elected politicians are choosing to ignore and being rushed through behind the scenes as we speak. Chillingly Prins spells out the steps of this quasi-hidden Technical Note. ‘In Article 17 we find ambitions to lock us into subordination with the EU Political and Security Committee and EU Military Committee . . . Are Ministers asleep? Or blind? Or just ignorant of the plain fact that any association to one part leads to subordination to EU control in all areas.’

It gets worse as Prins goes on. Article 18 ‘intends to achieve a bespoke Administrative Arrangement with the European Defence Agency’; again one hears the Robbins lexicon echoing the Chequers ‘bespoke’ trading arragments. And then, says Prins, we get to the truly devilish part in Article 25. ‘We should not wait where we do not need to. The UK welcomes the agreement that future arrangements on CSFP and CSDP could become effective during the Implementation Period.’ This is precisely what Brockbank said in the Kit Kat Tapes – and it would effectively mean that any time from now, the Government could permanently lock us under EU control in defence and security by Prerogative Powers. In effect, it would allow for an administrative coup d’état. This is a classic FCO 30 / 1048 operation. The current national turmoil over May’s agreement totally ignores this deep threat to our military independence and alliances, but also to the question of whether we are in fact still a democratic state or now managed bureaucracy, on which see Janet Daley [paywall] and Stewart Jackson.

The growing power of Whitehall administration is subverting Brexit against the democratic vote: this is a very plausible thesis and a comment on how our constitution has been twisted since Heath’s great deception.

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Timothy Bradshaw
Timothy Bradshaw
Timothy Bradshaw is a Theological lecturer and Anglican clergyman

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