Attack on PM's policies

Adviser Adonis quits over Brexit and East Coast bailout

Theresa May in Brussels 8 Dec

Theresa May: accused of becoming the “voice of Ukip”

Former Labour minister Lord Adonis has resigned from a key commission in protest at government handling of the Brexit talks and the bailout of two transport companies.

In a strongly-worded letter he announced he would be stepping down as chairman of he National Infrastructure Commission which is helping to steer major projects such as HS2.

He accuses the Prime Minister Theresa May of becoming the “voice of Ukip” with Brexit becoming “a populist and nationalist spasm worthy of Donald Trump.”

He says the policies being pursued will leave Britain in “splendid isolation”.

Lord Adonis writes that he would be “duty bound” to oppose the government’s EU withdrawal bill when it reaches the House of Lords, describing it as “the worst legislation of my lifetime”.

In his letter he warns that the Prime Minister is leading Britain into a future with no credible plan and lacking responsibility.

“After the narrow referendum vote, a form of associate membership of the EU might have been attempted without rupturing Britain’s key trading and political alliances,” he writes.

“Instead, by allying with Ukip and the Tory hard right to wrench Britain out of the key economic and political institutions of modern Europe, you are pursuing a course fraught with danger.

“Even within Ireland, there are set to be barriers between people and trade. If Brexit happens, taking us back into Europe will become the mission of our children’s generation, who will marvel at your acts of destruction.

“A responsible government would be leading the British people to stay in Europe while also tackling, with massive vigour, the social and economic problems within Britain which contributed to the Brexit vote. Unfortunately, your policy is the reverse.

“The government is hurtling towards the EU’s emergency exit with no credible plan for the future of British trade and European cooperation

“I am afraid I must now step down because of fundamental differences – on infrastructure and beyond – which simply can’t be bridged.”

The former Transport Secretary also takes issue with the current incumbent Chris Grayling for his “indefensible decision” to bail out the Stagecoach/Virgin East Coast rail franchise.

“The bailout will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds, possibly billions if other loss-making rail companies demand equal treatment,” says Lord Adonis.

“It benefits only the billionaire owners of these companies and their shareholders, while pushing rail fares still higher and threatening national infrastructure investment. It is even more inexcusable given the Brexit squeeze on public spending.

“The only rationale I can discern for the bailout is as a cynical political manoeuvre by Chris Grayling, a hard-right Brexiteer, to avoid following my 2009 precedent when National Express defaulted on its obligations to the state for the same East Coast franchise because it too had overbid for the contract.

“I set up a successful public operator to take over East Coast services and banned National Express from bidding for new contracts. The same should have been done in this case. Yet, astonishingly, Stagecoach has not only been bailed out, it remains on the shortlist for the next three rail franchises.

“The East Coast affair will inevitably come under close scrutiny by the National Audit Office and the public accounts committee, and I need to be free to set out serious public interest concerns.

“I hope the PAC calls Sir Richard Branson and Sir Brian Souter to give evidence. I am ready to share troubling evidence with the PAC and other parliamentary committees investigating the bailout.

“As you know, I raised these concerns with the chancellor and the transport secretary as soon as the bailout became apparent from the small print of an odd policy statement on 29 November majoring on reversing Beeching rail closures of the 1960s. I received no response from either minister beyond inappropriate requests to desist.

“Brexit is causing a nervous breakdown across Whitehall and conduct unworthy of Her Majesty’s government. I am told, by those of longer experience, that it resembles Suez and the bitter industrial strife of the 1970s, both of which endangered not only national integrity but the authority of the state itself.

“You occupy one of the most powerful offices in the history of the world, the heir of Churchill, Attlee and Gladstone. Whatever our differences, I wish you well in guiding our national destiny at this critical time.”

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith hit back at the criticisms, saying: “Lord Adonis’s departure is long overdue.

“It’s a bit rich for him to pontificate on what he calls populism, but what most would refer to as democracy, when he himself has never been elected by a public vote. He has instead relied on preferment from others.”


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