One constant throughout the Brexit negotiations amongst the toing and froing of Brexit cabinet members, calls for the sitting Prime Minister to resign and leave has been the men in grey suits, the men (not women) in the background.
The Civil Service has always had an enormous influence over the government of the day; one only has to revisit old classics such as Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister to be educated in the machinations of inner government.
Of course, you must take that analogy with a pinch of salt as it was a classic comedy. But the touches of reality are breathtaking. The Thick of It brought the public up to date with the workings of government behind the scenes. For sure, the big problem with this influence and management of the government is that no one voted for any of these people.
Obviously, they have a job to do; MPs and Government Ministers need aid and help with their decisions and implementation of policy ideas. There is, of course, now in the modern Parliament a whole new industry comprising of “Think Tanks,” but are these simply the old lobby groups in disguise?
They are it seems comprised of a lot of young go-getting highly educated young people. If you look at TV appearances, they also seem to be dominated by young women; this is refreshing too of course. It is worrying though that they also seem to offer a further layer of input into the Government machine.
My worry is that no one has voted for these people. Their thoughts, ethos, and manifestos have never been put to the public test. Their influence on policy and the pathway of the country is not measured with checks and balances, or so it seems.
So, to our Mr Robbins. It has been widely reported about his influence on the process of negotiation to secure our divorce from the EU. The recent programmes looking behind the scenes of those negotiations were very revealing as to his levels of input and influence. At one point, the second EU negotiating cabinet minister Dominic Raab was flexing his muscles a bit and arguing certain points to make his stance known to his opposition. Robbins is clearly heard interjecting saying that those parts of the conversation Raab was arguing had already been agreed and that he, Raab, should not go there.
This totally blew any wind out of his sails and literally stopped him dead from any further opportunity of negotiation. Can you remember the Godfather film when Fredo spoke out against the family to Mo Green in Las Vegas? This was very similar. Who`s side is this fella on?
To interject on behalf of the other side in any negotiation is a serious dereliction of duty and some things are just simply better left unsaid. Is it any wonder that Dominic Raab did not stay in post very long. You cannot go into bat with someone holding your arms down.
The current negotiations between the Tories and Labour to try to find a way through for the withdrawal agreement to return to Parliament and be voted in is worthy of another blog. But they are clearly stalling and will not arrive at anything meaningful.
Why then did Olly Robbins go alone to Brussels to de-brief the chiefs of the EU. Why was it not a senior cabinet minister and someone who has after all been voted into office by the British Public, what checks are in place to monitor what he says or even more so what if anything he agrees?
This is a very worrying trend and a very worrying set of circumstances surely. An unelected civil servant, going to Brussels to discuss a major part of the biggest political decision this country is currently mired in. Even if it is to brief EU ministers and negotiators, it cannot be right that he does this in my opinion and does this alone. Especially when he clearly has an undue influence on the outcome of the withdrawal agreement.
He is to meet Sabine Weyand, the deputy negotiator, and ask her how long it will take to change the 26-page political declaration which is the agreement on the future relationship between GB and the EU. That’s ok you may think to simply ask how long it will take, but that could have surely been done on the phone.
No, it is also widely reported that he is also going to discuss actual changes to that document, bearing in mind no outcome has been achieved from the cross-party talks here in Blighty and discussing changes is as a result of demands for such changes by Jeremy Corbyn I have grave reservations about this.
Who elected this man, who appointed him, who checks and balances what he says, what is his mandate, what changes is he negotiating to an already agreed document on behalf of you and me.?
Too many questions for this to be a safe and correct practice.