Jo Carey obituary

Other lives: Civil servant whose skills helped establish the UK’s position in the EU

My friend Jo Carey, who has died aged 88, was a leading member of the pioneering generation of civil servants finding their way round the EU in the first 20 years of Britain’s membership. He was UK member of the European Court of Auditors from 1984 to 1992.

The son of Celia (nee Conway) and Richard Carey, a teacher at Rugby school, Jo went to Rugby, then studied classics at Balliol College, Oxford. He undertook the Russia course of the Joint Services School for Linguists, based at Bodmin, in Cornwall, during national service in the early 1950s.

He joined the Treasury in 1957, rose through the ranks, and from 1974 to 1977 was head of the economics division in the UK Permanent Representation to the EEC at the time of Britain’s first renegotiation of its membership terms under Harold Wilson. He arrived, I recall, full of the usual Treasury man’s caution about Foreign Office enthusiasms, of which making a success of British membership of the EEC ranked high. But he soon absorbed the sense of adventure and determination of his colleagues, and particularly enjoyed the opportunities offered by the UK’s first presidency of the European Council in 1977 to direct the agenda in Brussels.

The stress of long hours and tense negotiations were relieved by the parties and dinners Jo loved to host, and long walks in the Ardennes on Sundays with Stella Rimington and others. In the summer breaks Jo and some of his more adventurous colleagues climbed mountains, a challenge they kept up for 15 years.

Back in the Treasury in 1978, Jo focused on international finance before becoming Treasury officer of accounts, experience that set him up for his next job as UK member of the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg, handpicked by Margaret Thatcher. He focused there on correcting irregularities in agricultural expenditure, particularly on export refunds.

His independence and fairmindedness in that role led to his appointment in 1994 by the French head of the agriculture directorate in the commission to chair the panel set up to resolve disputes between the commission and member states on the distribution of EU subsidies.

Jo came quite late to marriage in 1990 but his union with Liz Slade, an art historian, brought him great happiness. They shared a passion for Italy, living for a time in a restored farmhouse in the Umbrian hills and travelling to exhibitions in Venice, Rome, Florence, Perugia and Milan.

In retirement in London from 2001, Jo was in regular contact with friends he first met on the Russia course, sharing their love of its language and literature. He played the piano, read voraciously, enjoyed watching the many birds attracted to his garden and delighted in his niece and nephew, stepson and stepdaughter.

Generosity was the key to Jo’s character. He was the most loyal, hospitable and dependable of friends. Latterly his keen interest in the world was saddened by the way the UK’s position in the EU that he and many others had spent much of their careers building was jettisoned quickly and, apparently, thoughtlessly.

Jo was appointed CMG in 1993 and awarded the Grand Cross of the Luxembourg Order of Merit in 1992.

He is survived by Liz, his stepchildren Jackie and Murray, and his niece, Heather, and nephew, Andrew.

Sue Brown

The GuardianTramp

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