The real political power of the civil service

The resignation of Sir Ivan Rogers, the senior civil servant as the head of the Brexit negotiators, following his long email which said that our team doesn’t have a plan ready for March’s negotiations with the EU.

There’s no need to have one right now, with most of January and the whole of February remaining in which to look at all the information and putative arguments in the round.  Sir Ivan has actually let the British team down and given encouragement to the EU negotiators.

The incident has actually exposed two myths about the civil service.  One is that First Division civil servants are supposed to remain politically neutral.  Sir Ivan obviously wasn’t.  The other is that the civil service is supposed to remain in the background and let government ministers take the ‘credit’ for public discussion.  This incident shows that the (unelected) senior civil servant actually has more influence than any minister below prime minister.

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