PM will not sack adviser for comparing hard Brexit to appeasement of Nazis

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Prime Minister Theresa May will not sack a senior Government adviser after he compared a so-called "hard" Brexit to British appeasement of the Nazis in the 1930s.

Mrs May has rejected calls to fire Labour peer Lord Adonis, who chairs the Government's National Infrastructure Commission, despite the controversy caused by his remarks.

A spokeswoman for Mrs May told a Westminster briefing the Prime Minister completely disagrees with Lord Adonis's comments, but will not sack him.

"He is not a member of the Government. He is not a Conservative peer. His job is to provide independent advice to Government on infrastructure, that doesn't have anything to do with the views he expressed on Brexit.

"She completely disagrees with those views.

"His views on Brexit have no bearing on the position that he holds. It is down to him to explain his views."

The PM's spokeswoman said the situation was not comparable to Mrs May firing Lord Heseltine from several advisory roles, including on infrastructure strategy, after he led a revolt in the House of Lords against the Government's Brexit agenda in March.

The spokeswoman said that was different because Lord Heseltine was a Conservative peer.

In his remarks, Lord Adonis also compared leaving the European Union's single market and customs union to the end of the British Empire.

He said the UK is in "serious danger" of getting Brexit wrong and warned that the country faces a steep decline in living standards compared with France and Germany unless the country can "have our cake and eat it".

Lord Adonis told the House magazine: "Anyone with a historical sense - and I'm a historian - recognises that leaving the economic institutions of the European Union, which have guided our destiny as a trading nation for half a century, is a very big step and the importance can't be over-emphasised.

"To my mind, it's as big a step that we're taking as a country as decolonisation in the 1950s and '60s and appeasement in the 1930s."

His comments sparked calls for his sacking from Brexit-backing Tory MPs.

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith told the Sun: "I am astonished and appalled that someone who considers himself to be intelligent should have selected such a comparison given all the appalling violence and death that Hitler visited on Europe and the rest of the world.

"I find his comments deeply offensive, as I believe most of the British people will too."

Tory MP Peter Bone told the newspaper: "He should be fired."

Fellow Tory backbencher Andrew Bridgen said: "Of course he should be removed from any advisory role to government. He doesn't really believe in democracy - just like Hitler."

Later, Lord Adonis maintained his position and urged Labour to back staying in the single market and customs union.

Asked if he was sticking by the comments, and where that leaves the party, the peer told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The point I'm making is that it's the worst economic mistake we will have made in this generation if we do leave and do a hard Brexit.

"My view is that the Labour Party should stand behind staying in the single market and the customs union - I've argued that in the House of Lords, I couldn't have been clearer."

Lord Adonis said he believed voters back his stance and that it was a "matter of time" before Labour came "in line with the country".

"There is no way that the Labour Party, as the party representing the working people of this country, is going to take a position that sacrifices their jobs and makes them poorer, and if it were to take that position, and we were to do a hard Brexit, then I do believe this would be the worst mistake this country has made since appeasement in the 1930s and it will impoverish millions of working people," he said.