Imagine making a gaffe so bad that even David Davis was shocked – that was the astonishing feat achieved by Brexit minister Steve Baker today.
Davis could be seen grimacing like a Brexit bulldog chewing a wasp as Baker gave credence to a Chinese whisper that civil servants cooked the numbers in the leaked impact study.
Jacob Rees-Mogg put the claim to Baker at Brexit questions in the Commons. He said:
“Will the Minister confirm that he heard from Charles Grant of the Centre of European Research that officials in the Treasury have deliberately developed a model to show that all options other than saying in the Customs Union were bad and that officials intended to use this to influence policy.”
To the astonishment of MPs, Baker replied:
“I’m sorry to say that my Hon. Friend’s account is essentially correct.”
Now watch his boss’ reaction:
Jacob Rees-Mogg asks if it is true that “officials in the Treasury have deliberately developed a model to show that all options other than saying in the Customs Union were bad and that officials intended to use this to influence policy” pic.twitter.com/qUTKvAJFi0
— BrexitCentral (@BrexitCentral) February 1, 2018
It was Baker’s second attack on the civil service in a single week.
On Tuesday he was asked by another Brexiteer Tory MP whether he could “name a single civil service forecast, leaked or otherwise, that has been accurate?”
He replied: “No, I am not able to name an accurate forecast. They are always wrong, and wrong for good reasons.”
Those comments provoked a furious response from the FDA union, which represents senior civil servants.
General secretary Dave Penman called his comments an “insult the dedicated professionals working in his department” and asked: “How can a minister prepared to undermine the government he serves retain the confidence of the Prime Minister?”
Probably wouldn’t ask anyone to make you a cup of tea back at the office, Steve…