The Olly Robbins’ Show

When the British civil servant Olly Robbins was first compared with Grigori Rasputin, the Russian cult-figure and self-proclaimed prophet, by some Brexiteer Conservative MPs, most of us were surprised. Then when the former head of Ml6, the British Secret Service, Richard Dearlove, said that Robbins “had serious questions of improper conduct to answer over the defence and security co-operation between the UK and the EU after Brexit”, Olly Robbins certainly became a person of interest.

Then we read that in some EU meetings Robbins “would urge Eurocrats to ignore the political noise in Westminster and listen to him, or to Mrs May, often failing to mention the Brexit Secretary David Davis altogether”. Little wonder there was no love lost between Davis and Robbins, after this news leaked back to London. This was exacerbated further with Robbins openly reporting directly to Mrs May and ignoring the Brexit Secretary, who was his direct boss. Seemingly after a confrontation between the pair, David Davis resigned. It was embarrassing that Davis had been outmanoeuvred by a senior civil servant. What can be said about the present Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab? It is said that he just does and says what he is told. May and Robbins call the shots.

Where were the other normally outspoken and well known Cabinet Brexiteers such as Grayling, Leadsom, Mordaunt, Liam Fox, and Michael Gove? Both David Davis and Boris Johnson put up a fight, at least. Gove, for example, who had been highly critical of Olly Robbins some years before, has now gone silent on Brexit-related matters. Why? Can we assume that these cabinet members are just rolling over and letting the Olly Robbins plan proceed? I wonder if they have seen the writing on the wall, and ‘realpolitik’ has won the day.

Who is this Olly Robbins, anyway? Robbins is a Londoner who was educated at Hertford College Oxford, where he studied PPE {politics, philosophy and economics}. But alongside his studies, this 6 ft 3ins rather intellectual student was active in the Oxford Reform Club, whose only raison d’etre seemed to be to support all things European.

Also, while at university in the early 90’s, he defended the Soviet Union, especially as an alternative to the excesses of modern capitalism. Indeed he wrote a paper about this topic. This pro Russian stance, by Olly the undergraduate, led David Davis in later years to introduce his senior civil servant to others as “This is Olly Robbins, the People’s Soviet”. After leaving University, he entered the civil service and was fast-tracked into the Treasury. He worked with Tony Blair who made him his private secretary. Later he worked with Gordon Brown. He also worked for David Cameron and Mrs May when she was at the Home Office.

Robbins must have been appalled when 17.4 million people voted to leave the EU. So it is little wonder that Brexiteers are convinced that with him in the driving seat, the whole exit agreement will be fudged, and the UK will remain in some type of customs union with the EU, irrespective of what wording is used. Perhaps now that the budget is over in Westminster, Mrs May will soon present Olly Robbins’ fudged Brexit plan as a fait accompli to the UK parliament sometime before Christmas. It will be accepted, because May will present it as “this plan or a no deal Brexit”. The 29th of March 2019 draws near for UK to leave the EU, unless, of course, the Robbins’ plan cannot get through Parliament on time and then an extension of time may be needed for Parliament to decide between Olly Robbins’ two alternatives.