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Montevideo, March 21st 2019 - 12:32 UTC

UK ambassador to EU steps down criticizing preparations for Brexit negotiations

Wednesday, January 4th 2017 - 09:13 UTC
Full article 25 comments
Sir Ivan's note to staff, published by BBC, warned the UK “government will only achieve the best for the country if it harnesses the best experience we have”. Sir Ivan's note to staff, published by BBC, warned the UK “government will only achieve the best for the country if it harnesses the best experience we have”.

UK's ambassador to the European Union urged British colleagues in Brussels to challenge “muddled thinking and... speak truth to power” as he quit ahead of Brexit talks, according to the BBC. Writing to staff, Sir Ivan Rogers said ministers needed to hear “unvarnished” and “uncomfortable” views from Europe.

 Earlier it emerged Sir Ivan would be leaving his post several months early. The government said he had quit so a successor could be in place before Brexit negotiations started.

Sir Ivan's note to staff, published by the BBC, confirmed this but also warned the “government will only achieve the best for the country if it harnesses the best experience we have”.

BBC diplomatic correspondent James Landale said the clear implication of Sir Ivan's resignation note to his staff in Brussels was that he resigned because some of his advice was being ignored by his political masters in London.

Sir Ivan, who had sparked criticism from some MPs by warning ministers a UK-EU trade agreement might take 10 years to finalize, was due to leave his post in October. His early departure was welcomed by Brexit campaigners while pro-EU politicians said it was a blow to the government's negotiation.

In his note, Sir Ivan said: “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.

”I hope that you will support each other in those difficult moments where you have to deliver messages that are disagreeable to those who need to hear them.“

On the UK's Brexit negotiations with the EU, which are due to begin by the end of March, he said ”serious multilateral negotiating experience is in short supply in Whitehall“, adding this was not the case in the European Commission or in the European Council.

He said the government would only succeed if it ”harnesses the best experience we have“ and ”negotiates resolutely“, adding, in a reference to the remaining 27 EU states: ”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.“

The nature of the UK's trading relationship with the EU has been much debated ahead of the formal talks.

Sir Ivan said that ”contrary to the beliefs of some, free trade does not just happen when it is not thwarted by authorities“, adding that market access would depend on the terms of the deals struck. The diplomat also made clear that the timing of his resignation was designed to avoid disruption by leaving later this year when his term of office was expected to expire.

”It would obviously make no sense for my role to change hands later this year,“ he said.

A government spokeswoman said: ”Sir Ivan Rogers has resigned a few months early as UK permanent representative to the European Union.

“Sir Ivan has taken this decision now to enable a successor to be appointed before the UK invokes Article 50 by the end of March. We are grateful for his work and commitment over the last three years”.

Categories: Economy, Politics, International.

Top Comments

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  • Conqueror

    @DemonTree: Are you Scottish? Or has the troll got you by the nose?

    For a start, as an ambassador, Sir Ivan would be a member of the Diplomatic Service. As a civil servant, he would have signed the Official Secrets Act. As would his staff. Did they forget that it's a lifetime commitment. Because of one's position, one has access to information not available to unauthorised persons. Signing the Act is a declaration that one will not act in such a way that such information comes into the position of the unauthorised. Of course, we cannot know, as yet, whether it was Sir Ivan or a member of his staff that 'leaked' his farewell message. But the message contains a lot of information that he had no need to mention.

    But it does bear out what I have said for years. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office is not really on Britain's side. No matter what overall government policy might be, or what the British people are likely to think, the FCO formulates its own 'policies'. And puts them into practice. Time after time. Perhaps it's because its personnel have too much contact with representatives of other countries.From years ago, where did the Spanish get the idea that Britain would happily hand over Gibraltar? Where did the argies get the idea that Britain would hand over the Falkland Islands? The answer is the same in both cases. The FCO. From my own personal experience, I found a couple of staff from a foreign embassy undertaking an illegal action. Not all embassy staff have diplomatic privilege and these two didn't. In any case, even foreign embassies are required to comply with British law. Eventually, the embassy contacted the FCO that stuck its nose in. “Let them do what they want” said the FCO. It's always represented as being what the FCO thinks is in Britain's interest. Many situations are 'inconvenient' for the FCO. And so it tries to make them go away.

    How would you know whether Sir Ivan Rogers was competent? And the British people have chosen the country's course

    Jan 04th, 2017 - 01:55 pm +2
  • DemonTree

    Yes it is. Argentina says that a non-native population is not worthy of self determination while being a country founded and mostly populated by immigrants. I doubt there is any country in the world that is so consistent and so immune to self interest that it cannot be accused of hypocrisy over something.

    @The Voice
    I've now read about our new EU ambassador, and he sounds like a decent choice, not someone who'll be too scared or sycophantic to tell the government the truth.

    Jan 05th, 2017 - 08:12 am +2
  • The Voice

    If the 'expert' has clearly demonstrated that he is unwilling to execute the will of the people and the government he should go. As for competent negotiators who believe in what they are doing, they are the people we need. Don't try to tell us that such people don't exist in Britain because they do. Look a the 'deal' this Ambassador got for Cameron, it clearly didnt give Britain what people wanted, he was useless.
    We will make the best of Brexit in the short term and get back to running our own country and controlling our own borders under our own democratic parliament whatever the fifth column do. Britain is now more determined than ever to get out according to recent polls.

    Jan 04th, 2017 - 01:42 pm +1
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