Government tried to silence me, says Lord Adonis

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Media captionLord Adonis denies being pushed out of his government role

Brexit is “infecting” the whole conduct of government, Lord Adonis has told the BBC in the wake of his resignation as infrastructure advisor.

The former Labour minister quit his role as chairman of the government’s Infrastructure Commission with an attack on Theresa May’s strategy for leaving the EU.

He said Mrs May was “pursuing a course fraught with danger”.

Government tried to silence me, says Lord Adonis
Government tried to silence me, says Lord Adonis

A government source said he quit before he was pushed, which he denied.

“He’s been moving closer towards the exit door with each new onslaught he makes against Brexit,” the source said.

“He’s now walked through the door before he was pushed.”

‘No credible plan’

But Lord Adonis told the BBC: “My differences with the government had become too great – not only on Brexit, which I think is being handled very badly… but increasingly Brexit is infecting the whole conduct of Whitehall, we’re seeing that including in infrastructure itself.”

He referenced the “very misguided decision” to end the East Coast rail franchise three years early, describing it as a bailout costing hundreds of millions of pounds.

“I think if we’d had proper conduct of government, as happened before Brexit, no way would Whitehall have allowed a hard-right minister to have agreed the bailout of private rail companies,” he said.

Lord Adonis, who was transport secretary under Gordon Brown between 2009 and 2010, has chaired the National Infrastructure Commission since 2015.

The commission produces a report in every Parliament advising the government on spending in areas such as transport connections and energy.

In his resignation letter, he accused Mrs May of “allying with UKIP and the Tory hard right to wrench Britain out of the key economic and political institutions of modern Europe”, saying the UK was “hurtling towards the EU’s emergency exit with no credible plan for the future of British trade and European co-operation”.

Former Conservative leader and pro-Leave MP Iain Duncan Smith said the departure of Lord Adonis was “long overdue”.

But Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable called Lord Adonis one of the “most thoughtful politicians around” and said his departure showed Brexit was being “badly mishandled”.

A Labour spokesman said the government couldn’t even “command the confidence of its own advisers”.

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