Diplomat quits and admits there is no plan to tackle Brexit challenge
THE TORY’S APPROACH TO BREXIT has been dealt a further blow with the sudden resignation of the UK’s chief ambassador to the European Union just weeks before the crucial triggering of Article 50 on EU exit.
Sir Ivan Rogers – UK Permanent Representative to the EU since 2013 – announced he was quitting the role, in a lengthy letter to colleagues warning against “ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking”.
Rogers, emphasising the growing void on the issue of how to exit the EU, admitted that he had not been made aware of what the Tory Government’s strategy was almost six months since the referendum result in June 2016.
“We do not yet know what the Government will set as negotiating objectives for the UK’s relationship with the EU after exit,” he conceded, before adding that ”Serious multilateral negotiating experience is in short supply in Whitehall”.
Rogers has faced criticism from hard-Brexiteer supporters after his comments warning of a lengthy, complex negotiation process were leaked to the press in December. He had said that it could take ten years for any UK-EU trade deal to emerge – and even then such a deal would face potential vetoes across the 27 EU nations.
Nicholas MacPherson, chief secretary to the Treasury from 2005 until 2016, added that he “Can’t understand wilful and total destruction of EU expertise”, suggesting that other senior figures were being excluded from Brexit preparation.
SNP MEP Alyn Smith said that Rogers resignation was “mild compared to what I’ve heard privately several times from their UK officials”.
Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – which begins a maximum of a two years in exit talks – before the end of March this year. However, no clear answers have been provided on what the Tory’s preferred exit terms will be – and senior members of the cabinet are at loggerheads over the issue.
In six months Brexit chaos has led to a sharp devaluation in the pound, multiple (and yet unfinished) legal squabbles in the courts, the rising prospect of a fresh independence referendum, warnings from the Irish government, financial businesses preparing to leave the city of London, and loud Tory attacks on migrant rights.
It is still unknown whether the Tories will announce a ‘hard Brexit’ – leaving the EU’s single market and customs union. However, signals from Downing Street reiterate that ‘controlling migration’ is a red-line issues – a principle that European leaders have refused to separate from the continent’s trading policy.
Proposals published at the end of 2016 by the Scottish Government called for a compromise position that averted a hard Brexit – either on a UK basis or through supporting an EFTA-style deal for Scotland with further devolution.
European Free Trade Association members Norway, Iceland, and Lichtenstein are members of the single market through EFTA’s treaty on the European Economic Area.
Westminster leaders have shown only limited interest in these proposals.
Instead limited information on Tory plans has been leaked – including a scathing insider memo warning in November that “no common strategy has emerged” on Brexit, and that the government was struggling with the increased workload.
Another set of photographed notes from a Tory aid described the approach to Brexit as “have cake and eat it”, in reference to unrealistic expectations that the EU will bow dow to all Tory demands in talks.
May has said Brexit will be “red, white and blue”.
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