Monday

26th Jun 2017

UK's EU envoy quits over 'muddled thinking' on Brexit

  • Sir Ivan Rogers' departure could make it even tougher for the UK to get a good Brexit deal, experts warn (Photo: Reuters/Francois Lenoir)

British diplomats must challenge "muddled thinking" and "ill-founded arguments" on Brexit, the UK's ambassador to the EU has said in his resignation letter.

Sir Ivan Rogers delivered his thinly veiled criticism of the British government on Tuesday (3 January), quitting his post 10 months before the scheduled end of his mission in Brussels.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

He was criticised by Brexit supporters last month for warning that a new deal with the EU could take up to 10 years.

Sir Ivan, whose deputy resigned late last year, argues in his letter that it makes sense to hand over the baton to a new team before exit talks officially begin.

His departure is seen as a blow to prime minister Theresa May's government.

In his resignation letter , Rogers warns that the government lacks the necessary knowledge and technical expertise to conduct the negotiations, and the involvement of the UK permanent representation in the talks is essential.

"Serious multilateral negotiating experience is in short supply in Whitehall, and that is not the case in the Commission or in the Council," he wrote.

"The government will only achieve the best for the country if it harnesses the best experience we have - a large proportion of which is concentrated in UKREP [the UK EU representation] - and negotiates resolutely."

Rogers also made it clear that the UK has no negotiating position six months after the UK's vote to leave the union, and only three months before prime minister Theresa May intends to officially launch exit talks.

"We do not yet know what the government will set as negotiating objectives for the UK's relationship with the EU after exit," Sir Ivan writes.

He encourages his staff to support each other and deliver bad and uncomfortable news to decision-makers.

"Senior ministers, who will decide on our positions, issue by issue, also need from you detailed, unvarnished - even where this is uncomfortable - and nuanced understanding of the views, interests and incentives of the other 27," he says.

"I hope you will continue to challenge ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking and that you will never be afraid to speak the truth to those in power."

His letter sheds uneasy light on how ill-prepared the British government is, just a few months before negotiations are due to begin on the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

Praise

Brexiteers such as Nigel Farage welcomed his resignation, saying that the Foreign Office needed a "complete clear-out".

Richard Tice, a leader of the pro-Brexit Leave Means Leave pressure group, labelled Sir Ivan a "remainer" who "consistently failed to acknowledge the benefits Brexit will bring to Britain".

But others see the senior diplomat's exit as a blow for the forthcoming negotiations.

Former EU trade commissioner Lord Peter Mandelson described Sir Ivan's resignation as “a serious loss”, adding in a statement that "everyone knows that civil servants are being increasingly inhibited in offering objective opinion and advice to ministers".

"Our negotiation as a whole will go nowhere if ministers are going to delude themselves about the immense difficulty and challenges Britain faces in implementing the referendum decision," Mandelson said.

Claude Moraes, a Labour member of the European Parliament tweeted that the resignation "confirms what the 27 feared and the result will be a bad negotiation for the British people".

Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform think tank, called Sir Ivan one of the very few top British civil servants who understood the EU and said his resignation "makes a good deal on Brexit less likely".

The UK government is expected to appoint a new ambassador and deputy ambassador shortly.

EU states to keep control of Brexit talks

Leaders to keep tight control of Commission in Brexit talks, with the UK locked out of the EU's internal kitchen, according to a draft accord seen by EUobserver.

Column / Brexit Briefing

Rude awakening for Brexit diplomacy

The resignation of the British EU ambassador has exposed a divide between Leave and Remain supporters that goes to the core of the country's government.

Focus

UK's universities set 'Brexit wish list'

British academics want to guarantee residency and work rights for their EU staff, as well as "enhanced mobility opportunities" for UK and EU students, mostly by keeping British participation in EU funding programs.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel and Macron hold symbolic joint press conference
  2. Juncker has 'no' clear idea of kind of Brexit UK wants
  3. Belgian PM calls May's proposal on EU citizens 'vague'
  4. UK lacks support of EU countries in UN vote
  5. Spain to command anti-smuggler Mediterranean force
  6. Estonia confirms opposition to Nord Stream 2 pipeline
  7. Ireland and Denmark outside EU military plan
  8. EU leaders renew vows to uphold Paris climate deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  2. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  3. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  4. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  5. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  6. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  7. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  8. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  9. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?
  11. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Charges: What Does It Entail?
  12. World VisionWorld Refugee Day, a Dark Reminder of the Reality of Children on the Move

Latest News

  1. Macron’s investment screening idea watered down by leaders
  2. Leaders unimpressed by May’s offer to EU citizens
  3. New Irish PM praises unscripted nature of EU summits
  4. EU extends sanctions on Russia
  5. UK's universities set 'Brexit wish list'
  6. Decision on post-Brexit home for EU agencies postponed
  7. May's offer on citizens’ rights dismissed as ‘pathetic’
  8. 'Historic' defence plan gets launch date at EU summit