May 15 (UPI) -- An independent British think tank on Friday accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson and former leader Theresa May of failing to protect civil servants during months-long negotiations to exit the European Union.
The Institute for Government said in a 68-page report that Johnson put civil servants in a position to violate the law when he threatened to leave the European Union without a deal. The report said such a move would have violated the Benn Act.
The report added that May failed to shield chief Brexit negotiator Olly Robbins from "political attacks" toward her exit policy.
"This report says that both Theresa May and Boris Johnson failed to defend the civil service when [Parliament members] and commentators questioned its impartiality," the institute said. "It says May allowed Olly Robbins, her chief Brexit negotiator, to become a target for political attacks over her controversial Brexit policy, while Johnson placed officials in an immensely difficult position by implying that he would break the law."
The think tank also said the exit process "exposed weaknesses" in Britain's civil service, and that senior officials failed to challenge ministers. It added that officials refused to be clear about the political and economic consequences a no-deal exit would have had on Northern Ireland.
The institute recommended that the British government should work more closely with businesses ahead of the end of the transition period and the civil service should support the mental health and morale of public officials.
Britain formally left the alliance at the end of January and is now in transitional discussions to finalize rules with regard to issues like future trade with EU nations.