A civil servant has spoken out about how his resignation letter reminded him that things were “very bad” even before Boris Johnson became prime minister.
Richard Haviland, who worked with several government departments for 25 years, resigned in March 2019 because of what “ensued” from Brexit.
Writing for the European Movement in Scotland, a group campaigning for Scotland’s membership of the European Union, Haviland reflected on his resignation saying: “It wasn’t Johnson’s arrival in Downing Street that introduced the poison into our system, even if he significantly increased the dose. It was Brexit.”
Haviland criticised ministers insulting “our European neighbours” and Johnson’s infliction of “catastrophic damage on our politics”.
But he said corruption, lying and xenophobia started with the Leave campaign winning the Brexit referendum, and hit out at Theresa May’s inaction in countering them whilst she was prime minister – the only time Haviland did not find her articulate and sincere. “May’s illiberalism, inflexibility and weakness in the face of zealots in her party all helped get us where we are today. In particular she bears huge responsibility for the obscene normalisation of ‘no deal’ as a valid political outcome.
“But she is certainly not corrupt and nor is she a natural liar. Rather, she is someone who found herself so paralysed by the ghastly truths revealed by the hard Brexit which she pursued that she was forced to dissimulate time and again.”
Haviland’s thoughts come after re-reading the resignation letter he wrote over two years ago, when the original Article 16 deadline was looming and a no-deal Brexit was being considered.
The letter started with criticism towards former prime minister Theresa May: “Nothing in the referendum vote needed to lead us to where we are now. We are here because of the prime minister’s own choices, and her refusal to confront ideologues in her party or to be honest with the British population about the implications of those choices – in particular for peace in Northern Ireland.
“In my view, a government’s first duty is to provide its people both with security and a sense of security. Any minister who tacitly advocates leaving the EU without a deal, or even allows the perception to exist that it is a possibility, is guilty of an outright dereliction of duty.”
Government promises ‘secondary’ to Conservative Party interests
The letter argued “there was no mandate” to allow medicine shortages, the threat of martial law and jobs losses because of UK businesses relocating to the EU post-Brexit.
It also highlighted the negative impact of Brexit on national security and credibility, saying that the government saw its obligations under the Good Friday Agreement as “secondary to the interests of the Conservative Party”.
“Had any of this been orchestrated by a foreign power, it would be seen as an act of war,” he noted.
He added: “The government has caused untold misery and stress to millions of EU citizens living in this country and UK nationals living in other EU countries.
“It has made deeply offensive comments about our European allies, and whipped up and tolerated xenophobia on its backbenches.
“It has sown division by treating the majority of the electorate who did not vote to leave the EU as losers, rather than as stakeholders in a mature democracy; in so doing greatly risking the future of the United Kingdom it claims to cherish.”