Former Department for International Trade permanent secretary Martin Donnelly’s anti-Brexit speech today has been seized upon by Remainers and given top billing by the Today programme. Donnelly’s latest whinge is nothing new – he essentially says this morning that we should stay in the single market and customs union, just as he did three months ago. Not that that’s stopping the BBC and Remain media from treating it as new information. The more pertinent question is how on earth did someone who thinks we should stay in the customs union end up in charge of a department the whole point of which is to sign trade deals outside the customs union?
The reaction on Whitehall this morning is more one of rolled eyes than surprise. A former Eurocrat, Donnelly was never rated, neither by ministers nor Jeremy Heywood. Indeed they tried to push him out repeatedly pre-referendum before he finally took a knighthood and left. Donnelly tells you all you need to know about the civil service being stuffed full of Remainers trying to undermine the process… hardly helpful for his former colleagues.