Brexit: Shock resignation of Britain’s EU ambassador may be start of a Michael Gove-style 'cull of the experts'

A former permanent secretary at the Treasury fears the departure of Sir Ivan Rogers may indicate experts are no longer wanted - as Michael Gove first suggested

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Indy Politics

The shock departure of Britain’s EU envoy may be the start of a Michael Gove-style “cull of the experts”, a former top civil servant fears.

Sir Nicholas Macpherson stepped up his criticism of the loss of Sir Ivan Rogers by drawing attention to Mr Gove’s notorious comment that the country is tiring of experts.

The permanent secretary at the Treasury from 2008 to 2016, hinted at a widespread fear in the civil service that the Government is not prepared to listen to awkward advice on Brexit.

“I only hope Ivan’s departure is not about shooting the messenger and does not presage a Govean cull of the experts,” he told the Financial Times.

Lord Macpherson said it “beggared belief” the government had dispensed with the services of “the three best EU-qualified negotiators” that the civil service possessed, ahead of the crucial Brexit talks.

Sir Jon Cunliffe, a former EU ambassador and Michael Ellam, a former Treasury EU specialist, have also left recently, making Sir Ivan's the third departure.

It was Lord Macpherson’s second high-profile criticism, after he tweeted: “Ivan Rogers huge loss. Can't understand wilful & total destruction of EU expertise.”

During the Brexit campaign, Mr Gove, the former education secretary, was fiercely criticised for saying: “I think people in this country have had enough of experts.”

He later qualified his comment, insisting he had only been referring to economists whose forecasts had proved wildly inaccurate.

However, Mr Gove’s words were seen by many to epitomise a shift to a “post-truth” approach, where well-informed experts challenging populist opinion are no longer welcome.

Sir Martin Donnelly, the permanent secretary at the Department of International Trade and another veteran EU expert, is also stepping down this spring, removing another experienced Whitehall negotiator.