Post-Brexit muddled times: the resignation of UK’s top ambassador and Theresa May’s vague plans

teresa-may-2017-brussels

Ms Theresa MAY, UK Prime Minister at European Council, Brussels 15/12/2016. Shoot location: Bruxelles – BELGIUM Shoot date: 15/12/2016 Copyright: European Union.

Last week,  unexpected news casted more shadows over the already complex Brexit negotiations matter. Sir Ivan Rogers, Britain’s ambassador to the European Union, abruptly resigned and left his cabinet several months before his mandate was due to an end.

Officially, Mr. Rogers left his position “to give time” to his successor to take charge of the Brexit negotiations, but his departure is largely seen as another sign of the intensifying pressure that Theresa May’s government is due to face, just less than three months now before British Prime Minister triggers the formal Brexit negotiations.

The background

Sir Ivan Rogers has been the head of the British embassy in Brussels since late 2013, when he was appointed a Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the European Union by former UK Prime Minister David Cameron. The Financial Times was the first to report last Tuesday that Sir Ivan had written a note to say he was leaving early, ahead of a planned departure in November 2017.

And despite the fact that he explained in an email seen later by The Guardian that he was leaving now to give time to his successor to manage well in advance the Brexit negotiations with the European Union, Mr. Rogers’ resignation grounds his roots well deeper than just a simple matter of organisation.

Leaked warning

Sir Ivan Rogers’ name had become indeed very popular already last month, when his warning to Downing Street that a UK-EU trade deal might take up to 10 years to finalise leaked in mid-December. A No 10 spokesperson immediately dismissed the suggestion, but having the most prominent British negotiator to Brussels claiming that a comprehensive Brexit deal could take about five times longer than what his government is pretending, created by all means a huge issue for PM Theresa May.

Sir Rogers’ decision allegedly came after he was heavily criticised by Brexiteers, including a few reps of the Tory wing who blamed him for “gloomy pessimism”. He has also been repeatedly criticised for setting out how other EU leaders view the Brexit process. There might be also evidence that Sir Rogers too complained about Theresa May’s approach towards Brexit during a private meeting with former UK PM Cameron.

The Sunday Times reported last weekend indeed that the diplomat held secret talks with Mr. Cameron before Christmas and reportedly told the former PM that May was “not doing enough” to prepare for the risk of the UK making a “disorderly” departure from the EU.

Harsh inner debate

Now the departure of Sir Rogers, who warned his staff of “ill-founded arguments” and “muddled thinking” in London, reveals how complex the preparation of the post-Brexit talks with Brussels is, even from an internal point of view.

The debate in Westminster nowadays doesn’t look so soft either. Lord Nick MacPherson, the former top civil servant at the Treasury, said Rogers’ departure was a “huge loss” and declared that such a happening so close to the start of Brexit negotiations amounted to a “wilful and total destruction of EU expertise”.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg described Sir Rogers’ resignation as a “body blow” to the “Government’s Brexit plans”. “If the reports are true that he has been hounded out by hostile Brexiteers in Government – he said – it counts as a spectacular own goal”.

The Huffington Post also quoted Hilary Benn, the Labour Chairman of the Commons Brexit Committee, as saying that the departure of the diplomat came at a bad time given the UK was about the begin the “most important negotiation the country has engaged in for decades”.

Theresa May’s vague plan

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has now found herself in a very critical moment for her political life. Mrs. May knows perfectly that she needs to act quickly in order to calm tensions, and she already started to move cards. As a first move, PM May has already appointed former Moscow envoy Tim Barrow as a replacement for Sir Ivan Rogers.

The act surprised many for the speed of action, as if the decision of replacing Rogers with Barrow had already been taken behind the curtain. Many also saw such a quick move as a proof of “anxiety” by Downing Street, but PM May’s decision to have Mr. Barrow in Brussels looks more like a move to reassure promptly those in the civil service who feared the role would have been given to a “wholehearted Brexiteer”, and so that the role would have become heavily politicised.

New diplomat

Mr. Barrow was the UK ambassador to Moscow until 2015 and in March 2016, and was described by a Downing Street spokesperson as “a seasoned and tough negotiator, with extensive experience of securing UK objectives in Brussels”. “I am honoured to be appointed as the UK’s permanent representative to the EU at this crucial time”, Barrow said. “I look forward to joining the strong leadership team at UKRep to ensure we get the right outcome for the United Kingdom as we leave the EU”, he also underscored last week.

A public statement

Also, British Prime Minister May is believed to be preparing her direct response to Sir Rogers’ leaving. The Guardian and other prominent British media outlets reported at the end of last week that Mrs. May will make a major speech later in January, outlining priorities and the vision behind Brexit negotiations.

“Over the coming weeks, I’ll be setting out more details of my plan for Britain”, May told Sky on Sunday. The Prime Minister is expected to address the UK’s access to the single market, new immigration system and concessions on freedom of movement. The point is that, other than that, UK’s Prime Minister desperately needs a public speech to dismiss growing accusations that her Government lacks an exit strategy. The situation is very delicate at the moment.

The signs

Signs that a “harder Brexit” than what May’s team is expecting is due to come are pretty much everywhere. Sir Rogers’ resignation means the UK government has suddenly and unexpectedly lost one of its most experienced and trustworthy negotiators, a true point of reference of foreign policy for Britain. Moreover, Rogers was far from being the only political figure to think that it will take more than two years to find an agreement with Brussels, and also that such an agreement could be very onerous for London.

Late last year, the Office for Budget Responsibility, which is basically the government’s own spending watchdog, came in with a report that showed that Brexit will impact public finances by £ 59 billion. Once again and once more, those views were labelled by Conservative politicians as too pessimistic and based on “a very high degree of uncertainty”.

“Complexity of the issues”

UK’s Prime Minister May repeatedly declared she will trigger Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union, which is the one that allows a Member State to withdraw from the Union with a notification to the European Council, in the first quarter of 2017, and that there will be no need of more than two years of divorce talks.

However, last Sunday, Mrs. May also told Sky News she believes it is “important to take some time to look at the complexity of the issues”. “Often people talk in terms as if somehow we are leaving the EU but we still want to kind of keep bits of membership of the EU”, she also added.

It looks like there will be more surprises to come from now on to the official start of the already complex post-Brexit negotiations. The Sting will be monitoring the issue closely.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Featured Stings

UN chief welcomes ‘positive steps’ towards peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia

Eurozone: GDP development heads to naught; the expensive euro serves only Germany

European Commission: Does Apple, Starbucks and Fiat really pay their taxes?

UN rights expert ‘strongly recommends’ probe by International Criminal Court into ‘decades of crimes’ in Myanmar

Austrian Presidency priorities discussed in committees

Does the Commission subsidise a forced labour scheme in Britain?

COP21 Paris: The Final Agreement Adopted-full text

Industrial products: Lifting the last impediments in the EU single market

Ukrainian civil war: Is this the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning?

COP21 Breaking News: Paris Pact on Water and Climate Change Adaptation Announced

Deutsche Bank: the next financial crisis is here and the lenders need €150 billion from taxpayers

Rural Bangladesh has already embraced renewable energy. Here’s what the rest of the world can learn

Air quality: Commission takes action to protect citizens from air pollution

Why Microsoft is a regular to Almunia’s

ECB to people: Not responsible if you lose money on Bitcoin, your governments are

Oh, well, you are wrong, Google responds to the European Commission

Health Committee MEPs back plans to boost joint assessment of medicines

EU leads the torn away South Sudan to a new bloody civil war

JADE at European Business Summit 2015

10 Downing street: Another desperate attempt to unite Britain on Brexit


Re-thinking citizenship education: bringing young people back to the ballot box

Investing in working conditions and quality jobs

Free and secure access needed in DR Congo conflict zone to tackle Ebola – WHO

Indonesia: Psychological impact on earthquake survivors turns villages into ‘ghost towns’

The MH17 tragedy to put a tombstone on Ukrainian civil war

Uncovered liabilities of €5 billion may render EU insolvent

The G7 adopted dangerous views about Ukraine and Greece

Catalan Pro-Independence vote: how many hits can Brussels sustain at the same time?

Innovation can transform the way we solve the world’s water challenges

Facts and prejudices about work

Young people are Europe’s biggest value and hope

ECB’s billions fortify south Eurozone except Greece; everybody rushes to invest in euro area bonds zeroing their yields

EU Ombudsman investigates the European Commission

“We need to use the momentum globally to ensure that corporations pay their fare share of taxation”, EU Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis outlines from the World Economic Forum 2017.

YOUTH RIGHTS AT RISK FROM RISE OF EXTREME-RIGHT AND POPULISTS IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

Innovation and Entrepreneurship Changing the Face of Europe

Theresa May attempts to ease the EU stance as Britons request another EU referendum

Banks cannot die but can be fined

Draghi’s top new year resolution: Quantitative Easing

The Franco-German axis considers that all EU needs now is more armaments

GSMA head urges regulators to help Europe regain leadership

Commission’s Youth Initiative fails first hurdle by not sufficiently consulting young people

Eurostat confirms a dangerously fast falling inflation in Eurozone

My unlimited China

The Commission tells Berlin it is legally obliged to help Eurozone out of stagnation

Pakistan has just planted over a billion trees

ITU Telecom World 2016: it’s all about working together

Azerbaijan chooses Greek corridor for its natural gas flow to EU

Dark spots on EU humanitarian aid spending

The IMF overstates the risks for Eurozone and downgrades the threats for the US economy

4 reasons why women should lead the G7 agenda in 2018

UN rights chief calls for international inquiry into Kashmir violations

What UK and EU risk if Brexit “wins” these elections

4 reasons cities should embrace Universal Basic Income

The New Year 2016 will not be benevolent to Europe

Eurozone officials play with people’s deposits and minds

ECB to buy corporate bonds: Will government financing be the next step?

3 ways to ensure the internet’s future is creative, collaborative and fair

Guinea President Alpha Condé: “We must tackle the root causes of migration”

Medicine and mental health: relax, the doctor is a lifelong learner

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s