After a sudden resignation of Sir Ivan Rogers, the position was filled quickly. Sir Tim Barrow has been named as his successor.
The prime minister has promoted Sir Tim Barrow, who served as Britain’s envoy to Vladimir Putin for four years, to replace europhile civil servant Sir Ivan Rogers following his shock resignation on Tuesday.
Sir Ivan, who was described by Brexiters as a “gloomy pessimist”, quit his post with a stinging attack on the Government, accusing ministers of “muddled thinking” over Brexit.
Speculation had been mounting Mrs May might choose to make a political appointment as Britain’s news ambassador to the EU, and senior Ukip figures criticised the promotion of Sir Tim as an establishment stitch-up.
Leading Brexiteers including former Ukip leader Mr Farage had been touted for the role, but Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood apparently insisted on a bureaucrat being given the job.
Mr Farage tweeted: “Good to see that the government have replaced a knighted career diplomat with….a knighted career diplomat.”
And Ukip’s Brexit spokesman Gerard Batten blasted: “This appointment is a disappointment because the last thing we need is another career diplomat wearing a Brussels jersey.
“The Foreign Office needs a complete and revolutionary shakeup for it must begin to reflect the stated desire of the British people to leave the EU.
“We need to remove career diplomats who have been so spectacularly unsuccessful in protecting British interests for the last 44 years.
“In their place, we need committed and sincere Brexiteers, people who actually want Britain to leave the EU and are prepared to make it happen. We also need more people like this in Government who will ensure the same.”
But other top Brexiteers welcomed yesterday’s appointment of Sir Tim, including Boris Johnson who said the diplomat had provided him with “relentless energy, wise counsel and steadfast commitment”.
The foreign secretary added: “He is just the man to get the best deal for the UK and will lead UKRep [the British negotiating team in Brussels] with the same skill and leadership he has shown throughout his career.”
Good to see that the government have replaced a knighted career diplomat with…. a knighted career diplomat.
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) January 4, 2017
Sir Ivan Rogers resignation is a good thing for Britain. He had become far to close to the EU Institutions to do his job properly.
— Paul Nuttall (@paulnuttallukip) January 4, 2017
Fellow leave campaigner David Davis, now the Brexit secretary, agreed that the experienced diplomat was the right man for the job.
He said: “His knowledge of Brussels means he will be able to hit the ground running at a vital time. I am confident that with his help, the UK will be able to forge a new relationship with the EU that works to the mutual benefit of both sides.”
Top Tory Brexiteers outside of the Government, and therefore not bound by collective responsibility, were equally effusive in their praise of Sir Tim.
Steve Baker, the chairman of the Brexit-supporting European Reform Group of MPs, said: “Sir Tim Barrow is ideally qualified to take up this crucial role for this historic purpose.
“The speed of this first-class appointment illustrates the calm, resolve and efficiency of the Prime Minister’s and Government’s operation.”
And former Tory minister Dominic Raab, a leading Brexit campaigner, welcomed the choice of new ambassador in Brussels last night, saying: “It’s a savvy appointment that brings in some fresh thinking.”
Sources within Whitehall also hailed the appointment. One official said Sir Tim was “a Remainer, like most people at the Foreign Office, but not a Remoaner” while another colleague described him as “Tiggerish and irrepressible”.
It is widely perceived that Mrs May has opted for a safe pair of hands in Sir Tim, an enormously experienced diplomat who has previously represented Britain in Brussels and is known to many eurocrats.
The 52-year-old will now leave his job as Boris Johnson’s political director at the Foreign Office, an extremely senior civil service post which he took up after returning home from Moscow in 2015.
Prior to his four year stint in Russia, Sir Tim was the UK’s ambassador to the Ukraine, and he had to represent the UK at a time when it was part of a sanctions regime against Mr Putin following his annexation of the Crimea.
His appointment is being seen as a sign that Mrs May is trying to take the sting out of the upcoming Brexit talks by presenting Brussels with a known face and a seasoned negotiator.
It is also an indication of the extreme importance the PM is attaching to the job of EU ambassador, with Sir Tim by far the most experienced candidate available to her.
Eurocrats in Brussels and civil servants in Whitehall are likely to react with relief to the news, amid fears that a political appointment could have injected even more poison into the divorce process.
Sources within the civil service told ITV deputy political editor that Sir Tim “knows everyone and everything” and will be a “very good” appointment.
Sir Tim’s appointment comes after his predecessor caused an almighty political row with an incendiary resignation email to staff.
In it Sir Ivan made an obvious swipe at the Government, writing: “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.”
But he was immediately attacked by eurosceptic politicians who said the civil servant clearly “could not be trusted” to deliver on Brexit and that his outburst was sour grapes.
Leading Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith said that Sir Ivan had been right to quit because ministers “weren’t prepared perhaps to trust him” with their Brexit plans.
Lord Digby Jones, the former head of the CBI, yesterday accused the europhile civil servant of “batting for the other side” and being “poor at it anyway”.
Sir Tim Barrow is a former ambo to Russia, has worked at UKREP, sports a rather natty line in waistcoats & a very large and very full brain
— James Landale (@BBCJLandale) January 4, 2017
Apparently Tim Barrow, who will now be the UK’s man in Brussels is very good. A source tells me he “knows everyone” and “everything”
— Chris Ship (@chrisshipitv) January 4, 2017
Foreign Office political director Tim Barrow is Ivan Rogers’ replacement as EU ambassador. Can those moaning it would be a Brexiteer recant?
— Andrew Neil (@afneil) January 4, 2017
Sir Tim Barrow straps on his pads and gloves and strides out of the pavilion to bat for #brexit. Time to embrace your inner Boycott
— Scott Mann (@scottmannmp) January 4, 2017
The more I read about Sir Tim Barrow the more I think what a great appointment this is. I wish him well with the task ahead.
— Will Quince MP (@willquince) January 4, 2017
In contrast Charles Crawford, a retired diplomat and Sir Tim’s former boss, said that Mrs May will be able to “trust” her new ambassador but insisted he would not be a “patsy” to either the Government or Brussels.
He told LBC radio: “One of the things about this job is that in effect this is almost a Cabinet level appointment.
“It’s the only ambassador job where you’re really dealing with the whole of Whitehall all the time. Almost every week you come back to London for the highest level coordination of policy issues because so much of what goes on in Europe affects British domestic policies.”
He added: “He’s going to be a career civil servant and he’s going to be someone who Theresa May trusts. He isn’t a patsy, I don’t think that’s what it’s about.
“Prime ministers and ministers have jobs and the absolutely basic job they have to do in this case is decide the sort of Brexit we want and once they’ve made that decision Tim can say fine let’s go for that. In the end it’s for the ministers to make the decision not the ambassadors.”
The appointment was welcomed by Tory MP Scott Mann, who alluded to Lord Jones’ comments by insisting Sir Tim was “batting for Britain” and comparing him to legendary England cricketer Geoffrey Boycott.
Fellow Tory MP Will Quince added: “The more I read about Sir Tim Barrow the more I think what a great appointment this is. I wish him well with the task ahead.”
But Lib Dem leader Tim Farron typically saw the announcement as an opportunity to moan about the Government’s Brexit strategy again, whining: “I wish Sir Tim Barrow well in his position as ambassador to the EU. It is a challenging role made harder by our Government and the disgraceful attacks by leading Brexiteers on the impartiality of the civil service.
“The new ambassador can be at his most diplomatic but without a plan for this Government on where it stands on the big issues, such as Britain’s membership of the single market, then it is an impossible task.
“It is simply inexcusable that the hands of our diplomats are being tied by the ambiguity and meaningless platitudes spouted by ministers. It is time for Theresa May to set out her plan.”