25 September 2023

UNITED KINGDOM: Death threats follow Brexit costing

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Photo: Louise Haywood-Schiefer

UK Members of Parliament and trade union figures have rallied around the Permanent Secretary of HM Revenue and Customs, Jon Thompson (pictured) after it was revealed police are investigating death threats against him.

The threats were made after Mr Thompson set out the potential costs of Customs options when the UK leaves the European Union (Brexit).

He said the evidence he presented to the Treasury Select Committee that the “maximum facilitation” proposal — the favoured solution of some Brexit supporters to use technology to solve Customs issues — would cost firms up to £20 billion (A$37 billion) a year had led to “very significant personal consequences”.

“We have had to literally change how I travel and what my personal security is,” Mr Thompson said.

“We have had two death threats investigated by the Metropolitan Police for speaking truth unto power about Brexit.”

Chair of the Treasury Select Committee to which Mr Thompson gave the warning, Nicky Morgan said it was appalling that a PS employee should be threatened for doing his job.

“I am sure Mr Thompson considered what he said very carefully,” Ms Morgan said.

“As someone who has also been threatened, it is deeply concerning that this is what Brexit seems to have done to public life.”

Labour MP and fellow Committee Member Wes Streeting said the threats were “chilling”.

“To see a Public Servant subjected to death threats for giving evidence to our Committee in good faith is an affront to our democracy,” Mr Streeting said.

“It’s time for decent people on all sides of the Brexit debate to unite against the poisonous elements on the fringes who seek to intimidate and threaten public figures.”

Deputy General Secretary of the Prospect union, Garry Graham said he had written to Mr Thompson to offer support.

“It is the job of Civil Servants to provide objective and impartial advice and to do that without fear or favour,” Mr Graham said.

“It is a cornerstone of our democratic process and something we should celebrate and do everything to uphold.”

Mr Thompson said he had not anticipated the scale of the backlash to his warning.

“I didn’t realise it would result in that, but I think it is absolutely incumbent on us to stick to the fundamental principles of the Civil Service, which is to give Ministers the best advice that we can and, in a democracy, Minsters make the decisions,” he said.

London, 14 October 2018

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