‘Now let’s appoint an EU ambassador who believes in Brexit!’ Britain’s ‘pessimistic’ man in Brussels QUITS after facing major backlash over his ‘gloomy’ warnings about EU divorce.
- Europhile Sir Ivan Rogers resigns unexpectedly as Britain’s man in Brussels
- He’s been a leading advisor to No 10 on the EU since his appointment in 2013
- Rogers plays down significance of his decision, insisting he is standing down just a few months before planned departure date of November
- Brexit backers rejoice his resignation but Remainers warn of significant loss
- Jacob Rees-Mogg tells MailOnline: ‘It’s crucial the new ambassador is committed to Brexit’
Theresa May’s Brexit plans were thrown into chaos today after Britain’s ambassador to the EU unexpectedly quit.
Sir Ivan Rogers shocked staff this afternoon by announcing his decision to step down from his post early, despite his role being crucial in Britain’s divorce from the EU.
Brexit supporters welcomed his premature departure, which was due for November, and called for the Prime Minister to replace the Europhile with a more ‘optimistic’ diplomat.
They had launched a scathing attack on his ‘gloomy pessimism’ about Brexit last month, when he warned it could take Britain a decade to strike a new trade deal with Europe and even that could collapse if EU member states refused to ratify it.
They also claimed he was ‘scarred’ by his failure to keep Britain in the EU during David Cameron’s botched renegotiation bid and had undermined the neutrality of the civil service.
Tory MP Jacob Rees Mogg told MailOnline: ‘It is crucial that whoever represents us in Brussels is wholly committed to Brexit.
‘Sadly the impartiality of the civil service came into question during the referendum campaign which made the position of the highly intelligent Sir Ivan difficult.’
Nigel Farage also welcomed Sir Ivan’s resignation, adding: ‘The Foreign Office needs a complete clear out.’
But EU enthusiasts warned that losing Sir Ivan’s experience and knowledge of Brussels dealt a ‘body blow’ to Britain’s hopes of getting a good Brexit deal.
Sir Ivan did not give a reason for stepping down early and had a good relationship with Mrs May, although his strained relations with pro-Brexit figures in the Cabinet could have been a factor in his decision to quit.
Nigel Farage welcomed Sir Ivan’s resignation, adding: ‘The Foreign Office needs a complete clear out’
But pro-European Sir Nicholas Soames said it was ‘really very bad news indeed’ and warned that ‘we cannot afford to lose people of this calibre and experience’
Former Scottish first minister and Labour peer Jack McConnell said Sir Ivan’s departure meant ‘a serious loss of talent and experience’ for Britain
Ukip’s Michael Heaver said Sir Ivan’s departure was ‘good’ and urged Theresa May to appoint a replacement who ‘believes in Brexit’.
Leave.EU rejoiced news that Sir Ivan Rogers had stepped down as Britain’s EU ambassador.
Sources told the Financial Times that Sir Ivan did not give any reason for his departure but played down his decision, insisting he had decided to leave just a few months before his planned departure date of November.
Downing Street confirmed Sir Ivan has resigned as the UK’s ambassador to the EU but refused to give any further details on his reasons for quitting.
Lord Mandelson, Britain’s former EU trade commissioner, suggested he had quit because of undue interference from ministers.
He said: ‘I would not expect him to comment further but 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.’
Arch-Remainer Nick Clegg said Sir Ivan’s resignation was a ‘body blow’ to the Government’s Brexit plans and attacked Brexit supporters for forcing him out.
‘If the reports are true that he has been hounded out by hostile Brexiteers in Government, it counts as a spectacular own goal,’ he said.
‘The Government needs all the help it can get from good civil servants to deliver a workable Brexit.’
Mr Cameron appointed him to the Brussels post in 2013 after promising a referendum on the EU and he has been a leading advisor to No 10 over the last four years.
His shock resignation deals a major blow to the Prime Minister’s preparations for triggering Article 50 – the formal mechanism for leaving the EU – because of his significant experience and knowledge of Brussels.
MPs have already started speculating over Sir Ivan’s replacement. Mr Rees-Mogg suggested his pro-Brexit colleague Sir Bill Cash should replace Sir Ivan in Brussels, pointing out that Britain appointed a political ambassador – the late Lord Rippon – when we joined the European Community in 1973.
‘As a politician was the prime mover on the way in, Geoffrey later Lord Rippon, perhaps someone like Bill Cash should do so on the way out,’ he said.
Brexit supporters rejoiced his resignation, with Arron Banks, the Leave.EU chairman and Ukip’s biggest donor, calling for a diplomat who is more energetically pro-Brexit to replace him.
He said: ‘This is a man who claimed it could take up to 10 years to agree a Brexit deal.
‘He is far too much of a pessimist and yet another of the establishment’s pro-EU old guard. He has at least done the honourable thing in resigning.
‘It’s time now for someone who is optimistic about the future that lies ahead for Brexit Britain. Enough talk, we need to get on with getting out.’
Ukip’s Michael Heaver said Sir Ivan’s departure was ‘good’ and urged Theresa May to appoint a replacement who ‘believes in Brexit,’ adding that a ‘further clear-out’ was needed.
But Europhiles told Brexiteers rejoicing Sir Ivan’s departure to ‘put champagne on ice’. Jonathan Lis, deputy director of the Europhile British Influence thinktank, warned Britain was losing a knowledgeable, effective representative who was prepared to speak truth to Govt [sic]’.
Other EU enthusiasts warned that losing Sir Ivan – one of Britain’s most experienced negotiators who knows EU institutions and key figures inside out – puts Britain on the back foot ahead of crunch Brexit talks.
Pro-European Sir Nicholas Soames said it was ‘really very bad news indeed’ and warned that ‘we cannot afford to lose people of this calibre and experience’.
Hilary Benn, Labour MP and chair of the influential Commons Brexit committee, said his resignation was ‘not a good thing’ and said it was vital the Government ensures a smooth hand-over as soon as possible.
Jonathan Lis, deputy director of the Europhile British Influence thinktank, told Brexit supporters rejoicing Sir Ivan’s departure to ‘put champagne on ice’ because Britain was losing a knowledgeable, effective representative who was prepared to speak truth to Govt [sic]’.
He told the BBC: ‘I think that it means that the Government will have to get its skates on to make sure there is a replacement in place so he or she can work with Sir Ivan in the transition, the handover,’ he said.
‘But the hard work is going to start very soon, because if Article 50 is triggered, as the Government says it wishes to, by the end of March, then negotiations will probably begin shortly thereafter.
‘And having a handover in the middle of that, depending on when exactly he goes, is not ideal.’
Sir Ivan had come under pressure to resign last month after Eurosceptics claimed Sir Ivan, a former private secretary to ex-Tory chancellor Ken Clarke, was ‘scarred’ by his time spent negotiating Mr Cameron’s failed referendum deal and, as a veteran of Brussels, was ‘out of his comfort zone’.
There was also speculation that his warnings of a 10-year trade negotiation with the EU were deliberately leaked to undermine his position.
A ten-year timetable is at odds with the stated position of both Downing Street and Brexit Secretary David Davis.
Mr Davis predicted a deal could be done in 18 months last month, while Number Ten reiterated its commitment to completing the Brexit process in two years.
MANDARIN WHO SCORNS EUROSCEPTICS: A PROFILE OF SIR IVAN ROGERS
By Andrew Pierce
As a former private secretary to Tory chancellor Ken Clarke, the choice of Sir Ivan Rogers as ‘Our Man’ at the EU could not have been more provocative for Eurosceptics.
The appointment of Rogers in 2013 by David Cameron also spoke volumes about the former Prime Minister’s views on Europe. Rogers also served as chief of staff to the former vice president of the European Commission, the late Lord Brittan.
Clarke and Brittan were both champions of Britain joining the Euro and of ever closer and deeper political integration with Brussels.
Only last week Clarke was the only Tory MP to vote against giving Theresa May the authority to trigger Article 50.
A career civil servant, Rogers also served as principal private secretary to Tony Blair who is talking of making a political comeback to lead the fight to overturn Brexit. At no point has he worked for any opponents of the EU, which is not surprising. He is privately scornful of Euro-sceptics on the Tory benches who he regards as Little Englanders.
While as a civil servant he is supposed to be scrupulously impartial, he makes little secret of the fact he is a fully committed disciple of the school of thought that the UK is better off in the EU whatever its shortcomings.
Mark Ivan Rogers, who looks older than his 56 years, was educated at Balliol College, Oxford. He is married to Stephanie and they have a son and daughter.
He has spent all but five years of his professional life has been spent in the Civil Service. He worked in the City for Citigate heading up their Brussels arm and with Barclays Capital.
He was brought back to Whitehall by Cameron as his EU adviser in 2011 and became UK Representative to the EU in November 2013.
It fell to Rogers to mastermind Cameron’s renegotiation with the other 27 EU leaders before the referendum. Even the former prime minister’s most ardent supporters concede that their joint efforts were a miserable failure.
Publicity shy, he is conspicuous by his absence from Who’s Who, the bible of the great and the good.
He is rarely seen in photos, never gives interviews, and at summits like yesterday he is usually one step behind ministers or locked away from public view in long technical meetings. Now he’s turning his attention to Theresa May’s Brexit and, as usual, is spouting doom and gloom. Paid around £170,000 he is earning considerably more than the Prime Minister’s £143,000.
But the Brexiteers are warning the PM to treat his advice with caution. An Establishment figure to his finger tips, he is anti-change and does not want to upset the EU leadership who he is instinctively at home with.
For Sir Ivan Rogers, Brexit is not a golden opportunity but a negative to be carefully managed and, if possible, shunted into the sidelines.