Sir Michael Franklin obituary

Other lives: Civil servant closely involved in the negotiations that led to the UK entry into the EEC in 1973

My father, Michael Franklin, who has died aged 91, was of that generation which, having witnessed the horrors of the second world war, committed their careers to public service and above all to a united, cooperative Europe.

As a civil servant, he was closely involved in the negotiations that led to the UK entry into the EEC in 1973 and was one of the first tranche of UK civil servants to join the European commission.

He was born in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, to Milroy Franklin, an accountant, and his wife, Mabel (nee Andrews), and attended Taunton school. After national service, he went to Peterhouse, Cambridge, in 1948. There he embraced Keynesian economics, which, combined with his deep Christian faith, forged his political credo of fairness and equality.

On leaving Cambridge, where he had met his wife, Dorothy (nee Fraser), he joined the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, or Maff (forerunner of today’s Defra), soon becoming principal private secretary to the then minister of agriculture, Christopher Soames.

Following a spell as head of the sugar and tropical foodstuffs division of Maff, his association with Europe began in earnest. He was a member of Edward Heath’s negotiating team when the UK joined the EEC in 1973, with particular responsibility for agriculture. He then joined the commission, serving as deputy director general for the common agricultural policy (CAP).

On his return to Whitehall in 1977, he became head of the European secretariat of the Cabinet Office, with responsibility for coordinating UK policy on the EC and playing a pivotal role in Margaret Thatcher’s renegotiation of the budget contributions. He was knighted in 1983.

The same year he was appointed permanent secretary at the Board of Trade (forerunner, in part, of the current BEIS), but, a year later, was moved back to Maff because of the central position of agriculture policy in EU affairs. He is remembered by colleagues as a great public servant of the highest integrity and skill.

On retirement from the civil service in 1987, he joined the Labour party, and was an active local campaigner, although he resigned his membership after what he considered the disastrous Brexit referendum in 2016, appalled by what he saw as the party’s failure to unambiguously espouse the remain cause.

His interests were eclectic: he was a lover of watercolours and music, and a prodigious reader (especially of Anthony Trollope, himself a civil servant).

A staunch Europhile until the end, he continued to make insightful contributions to the Brexit debate (often as a contributor to the letters section of the Guardian).

He is survived by Dorothy and his daughter, Jenny, and sons, Jonathan and me, and by nine grandchildren and two great-granddaughters.

Robin Franklin

The GuardianTramp

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