Brexit minister Steve Baker has been accused by members of the House of Lords of behaving like Donald Trump and “bullying” the civil service.
In an extraordinary exchange in the Commons on Thursday, Baker had said it was “essentially correct” that Treasury officials had tried to sabotage Brexit by producing economic forecasts that warned the UK would be worse off after it left the EU.
He aplogised the next day and told MPs the next day he should have “corrected or dismissed” the allegation put to him by Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Rees-Mogg has stood by his claims that Treasury officials had been “fiddling the figures”.
And speaking to postgraduate journalism diploma students at the Press Association in central London on Monday, the Brexiteer backbencher appeared to blame Chancellor Philip Hammond for “biased” Treasury forecasts.
Tory peer Lord Tugendhat, a former vice president of the European Commission, told peers today: “MPs and ministers who impune the impartiality and good faith of our civil price are behaving very much as President Trump does with regard to the FBI.”
And Lord O’Donnell, the former Cabinet Secretary, said Baker and Rees-Mogg were guilty of “damaging” Britain’s democracy.
“Those making allegations without supporting evidence against serving civil servant, who will not respond, are undertaking a form of bullying,” he said.
Donald Trump is engaged in a high-stakes battle with his own Department of Justice and the FBI over its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Speaking for the government, Cabinet Office spokesperson Lord Young, said he would “reject the smears that have been made against civil servants” in recent days.
The Tory peer noted Baker had made “fulsome apology” for what he had said about civil servants.
But Lord Young added it was not for him to speak on behalf of backbencehrs such as Rees-Mogg.
On Sunday, Lord O’Donnell criticsed Brexiteers as “snake oil” salesmen who “don’t like the idea of experts testing your products”.
Rees-Mogg hit back today and pointed out Lord O’Donnell was in charge of the civil service when George Osborne set up the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).
“Why did he set it up? He set it up because we needed an independent body because nobody trusted the figures coming from the Treasury, which were political,” he said.