UK Ambassador to the EU resigns

Sir Ivan Rogers, the UK’s ambassador to the European Union has resigned. Highly experienced and diligent, Rogers was expected to play a key role in the upcoming Brexit negotiations.

Nick Clegg has commented

The resignation of somebody as experienced as Sir Ivan Rogers is a body blow to the Government’s Brexit plans.

I worked for Ivan Rogers in the EU twenty years ago – then he worked for me and the rest of the Coalition Government several years later.

Throughout all that time Ivan was always punctiliously objective and rigorous in all he did and all the advice he provided.

If the reports are true that he has been hounded out by hostile Brexiteers in Government, it counts as a spectacular own goal.

The Government needs all the help it can get from good civil servants to deliver a workable Brexit.

Other reactions include

News, as opposed to comment, is slower in arriving, but it does seem clear that Rogers understood the EU only too well for the Brexiters’ liking.

This echoes comments by Gus O’Donnell that I linked to earlier today.

It is somewhat cruel and unusual for a civil servant to resign over a policy disagreement, and there is nothing to suggest that Rogers was not the model civil servant. This points us towards the conclusion that Rogers was put in an impossible position. This is the sort of thing that is bound to happen when a government is committed to an opinion of what the EU is that is fundamentally at odds with reality.

* Joe Otten was the candidate for Sheffield Heeley in June 2017 and Doncaster North in December 2019 and is a councillor in Sheffield.

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50 Comments

  • He was leaving anyway in November.so better to get a replacement now.

  • Richard Whelan 3rd Jan '17 - 3:53pm

    Joe,

    It seems to me we have to begin to think very seriously about the prospect that Article 50 negotiations could end in acrimony without a deal.

    Should the party not begin to think about its response to the very real prospect of this happening with all the consequences that this will bring to jobs and people’s livelihoods? Given the circumstances of Sir Ivan Rogers’ resignation I do not think that the prospect that Article 50 negotiations could end in acrimony without a deal should be dismissed lightly.

    What is your view therefore about how the party should respond to such a situation?

  • David Evershed 3rd Jan '17 - 4:30pm

    It seems Rogers was due to move from his role as Ambassador to the EU in November.

    So better to have someone in place to cover the whole two year negotiation period.

  • I do wonder if this signals that the government won’t even bother to try and secure a transitional arrangement with the EU but will aim for a hard Brexit in 2 years time. If so they better first check the EU won’t veto the UKs membership of the WTO….

  • There’s an old trope in World War 2 films where a sensible German mentions something about the perilous state of the Wehrmacht and is immediately shouted down by the committed Nazi for “defeatism”. It was always used as a quick way to get over the combination of arrogance and fantasy in Nazi command. (“See, this lot are going to lose because they won’t plan correctly, because they won’t accept reality. Now here’s a scene with an Allied soldier speaking truth to power to show how we did it differently”).

    There is more than a little of this around at the moment.

    I remember an Any Questions a few weeks ago where a pro-Leave panelist responded to a civil servant’s (it may have been Rogers’) warning of the complexities of Brexit with the suggestion that said civil servant should be replaced (in effect “X won’t say it can be done. So get someone who will say it can be done”). As Joe has alluded to, when we recognise difficulties and downsides we are taken to be causing those difficulties and downsides. And often it seems that the biggest gripe against “remoaners” is that we are remoaners, that we wont join in with their fantasies (“We’re the 5th, no 6th, no 7th biggest economy in the world”, “they need us more than we need them”….)

    On Richard’s point: there will be a settlement, if not a deal. If a mutually beneficial deal, or an extension to the negotiation period cannot be agreed then the UK is just cut adrift. That’s Article 50.

    I think the Lib Dem position in that situation is quite clear. The terms of leaving are “no deal: just **** off” and those are the terms that should be put to the electorate in a referendum on the terms of exit.

  • The brave Brexiteers sneer in the face of experts, they laugh at plans and they’ll blame the Remainers and the EU when it all goes badly wrong. Although to be fair a few of the brighter ones are already claiming the version of Brexit which is developing, isn’t the version they voted for; convenient excuse I do feel.

  • Andrew McCaig 3rd Jan '17 - 7:40pm

    It seems pretty clear that no. 10 was briefing against Sir Ivan since his presumably confidential advice was leaked to the Press…

    Perhaps someone like Nick Clegg who knows about these things could clarify the “leaving in November” business? Is this actually “current contract expires, but could be renewed?

  • Andrew McCaig 3rd Jan '17 - 7:44pm

    I notice Farage has said “the only regret is that he did not resign the day after the referendum”

    Well, that would certainly be true of Farage, who has been defrauding the taxpayer as a “MEP” for so many years…

  • @frankie
    There were two options on the voting paper. It left no room for nuance or to ask what is peoples preferred route should we leave… or stay. If the vote had gone the other way, the majority of remainers (who opted to stay but wanting sweeping changes) would very likely be finding the EU deaf to British reforms and realising it “isn’t the version they voted for” either.

    There should have been multiple choices to allow people to define their true feelings. By arrogantly assuming he would win, Cameron gave no thought to the “what if”!

  • It’s not unusual for ambassadors, and other resident diplomatic staff, to ‘go native’ and adopt the world-view of their host country, as opposed to their home. I understand the Yanks call it ‘clientism’.

    I wonder if that might have happened here.

  • “UK’s ambassador to the European Union resigns.”

    This is good news. We need many more of these troublemaking elitist EU careerists to go into the ‘waste skip of history’, and we need to install non-liberal negotiators, who are more true to UK interests, rather than their EU pensions, to get the Brexit situation moving,.. and very soon.

    Leavers will never accept the shackles of imposed and unelected EU supremacy, ever again. Feel free to delude yourselves, but we’re leaving this bloated and corrupt EU mess. Get used to it.

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Jan '17 - 8:37pm

    I don’t have strong feelings either way on this, but I am sympathetic to the idea that if someone is very negative about brexit then they probably aren’t the right person to be one of the leaders of the negotiations. I don’t know if this applies to Sir Ivan Rogers, but it might do.

  • @ Dunn “This is good news. We need many more of these troublemaking elitist EU careerists to go into the ‘waste skip of history’,”

    Sorry Mr. Dunn, you’re far to diplomatic and that’s all a bit vague. Could you be a bit more specific about what this gentleman has done please ? I’d love to know.

  • Daniel Walker 3rd Jan '17 - 9:01pm

    @J Dunn “This is good news. We need many more of these troublemaking elitist EU careerists to go into the ‘waste skip of history’, and we need to install non-liberal negotiators, who are more true to UK interests, rather than their EU pensions, to get the Brexit situation moving,.. and very soon. “

    He doesn’t work for the EU, so I doubt he has an EU pension, unless he has a couple of years accrued from when he worked for Leon Brittan. He’s a civil servant, not an “EU careerist”. Nigel Farage got that right in his tweet, I note…

  • Why is someone like J Dun on here ? I thought this was a sight for LD members and supporters, not blinkered, illiberal nationalists like J Dunn.

  • Tim, WHY J Dunn chooses to do so on here is a fair question he/she may care to answer.
    But as a Liberal, I would defend his/her right to do so, even if the stated purpose of the site IS for LD members and supporters.

  • Tim,
    Mr Dunn is doing us all a favour, he personifies the brave Brexiteers; we can’t say we don’t know what we face, warts and all, doubt he has a plan though.

  • The UK is leaving the EU, it makes sense to have ministers, ambassadors and negotiators who support brexit. The ambassador has done the right thing, to have him leave his post in October would have been silly.

  • The man deserves our thanks for his work.Hopefully this is his decision.
    On a brighter note 5 major leaders of industry,some of them remainers have committed themselves to making Brexit work with the caveat that May needs to listen to and take account of the views and concerns of business,, rightly so in my opinion.
    Tim some of us like having ideas tested or just seeing if different opinions can sway their own.
    I have been called out as stupid, ridiculous, and advised to leave on more than one occasion. Stupid is as stupid does…
    Then again my typing skills are often hilarious.

  • Frankie, I can assure that he does not.

  • ethicsgradient 4th Jan '17 - 2:00am

    i do not think it will make too much difference. I read and hear that he knows how the inner workings of the EU and and the right people to talk to.

    The thing is, if we are about to leave the EU/trigger Article 50 then it becomes a different thing. Maybe different skills are needed and new thinking/mindset required?

    The truth is things/people/thinking can/does become institutionalized and outside thinking/a different view can be a good thing.

    I just don’t know but I suspect it will be alright and work out fine. The world has not fallen in 6 months after voting (i do not accept the arguments ‘we haven’t left yet’ because those disaster predictions were based on the vote rather than the actioning), the UK economy continues to grow and move forward.

    Things are going to be alright. There really is a institutionalized group-think around the negative sides of Brexit that just are not being matched by reality. We will muddle through and then get a chance to forge ahead once we are free to set our own trade policy and be open once more to the whole world.

  • @ethicsgradient -re: The world has not fallen in 6 months after voting

    That’s because the real decision day is the day May demonstrates whether she has any steel in her or meekly invokes Article 50. Then we will all know the direction of travel – expect markets and businesses to react swiftly and decisively.

    Only 86 days to go…

  • grahame lamb 4th Jan '17 - 7:34am

    There might be more to this than meets the eye.

  • Mick Taylor 4th Jan '17 - 7:57am

    If you are trying to negotiate a deal with a large trading block it seems fairly stupid to lose the one member of the crew who actually knows something about the other side. As a civil servant Sir Ivan would give the facts, leaving the decision to the politicians. That’s how the UK civil service works.
    It’s time those who want Brexit stopped slagging off public servants and learnt a bit about our democracy and how it works.

  • Tony Dawson 4th Jan '17 - 8:06am

    “Ill-found arguments and muddled thinking”. How long can a Prime Minister’s ‘honeymoon’ be permitted to go on as our country wades mapless into the thicket of uncertainty? She is clearly an Empress with many New Clothes.

    It has been disgraceful for commentators to lazily compare Teresa May to Margaret Thatcher simply because they both happened to be women. To misquote the late Senator Lloyd Benson: “I knew MT. TM is no MT.” Margaret Thatcher would not have appointed a troika of clueless comics to negotiate our UK Brexit. Six months after a referendum, Margaret Thatcher would still not be all at sea as to where she wishes to direct the focus of Article 50 negotiations.

    A better comparator Prime Minister for Teresa May would be Neville Chaimberlain who succeeded Baldwin as May succeeded Cameron. Not because of any great merit but because no one better seemed prepared to do the job at the time it became vacant. As Home Secretary, Teresa May presided year after year after year over the most rapid out-of-control rise in immigration, both EU and non-EU, in clear contradiction to her bosses repeatedly-stated and published targets. She was tolerated because Cameron followed the Blair edict, so-carefully followed by Gordon Brown, of ensuring that he kept himself surrounded by mediocrity in order to shine himself by comparison. Mrs may officially supported ‘Remain’ but sailed through the battles of the referendum making just about as much contribution to this ‘conflict’ as our High Commissioner to Mauritius did to the outcome of World War 2. She was, if performance statistics are anything to go by, the worst Home Secretary in living memory. When that list includes John Reid and Jacqui Smith, that is serious criticism indeed.

    The crisis facing our country today may not be quite as severe as that posed in 1939 but it is not far off and our government seems equally unskilled and ill-prepared. Where is our Leo Amery when we need him?

  • @malc no, Malcolm it makes better sense to have people who are indifferent to or opposed to Brexit negotiating as they will likely scrutinise any deal more closely to ensure that it is in the best interests of the country not a specific political doctrine. if you still insist, good luck with finding them. From what I understand, there’s no one with any experience of negotiating trade deals in favour of Brexit.

  • As a civil servant Sir Ivan would give the facts, leaving the decision to the politicians

    Would he, though? What one thinks of as ‘facts’, and specifically as ‘important facts’ depends on the paradigm through which one views the world — this is true for everybody, there’s no such thing as a totally disinterested human being who can simply report facts.

    If the man in question has been immersed in the EU paradigm of ‘nation-states are things of the past, no country can be a success on its own, the EU is the only game in town’ then that is necessarily going to affect which ‘facts’ he ‘gives’: like all of us, he will repeat facts which confirm his already-existing beliefs and ignore or minimise facts which challenge them.

    So if he is predisposed by his world-view to think that the UK’s independence is inevitably going to be a disaster, then he is probably not the person to be leading the negotiations towards that independence — for his own sanity, if nothing else (how would you like to spend months working on something you are sure will be a disaster in the end?).

  • Rebecca Taylor 4th Jan '17 - 9:58am

    @ethics gradient

    (1) In some parts of the world including the USA under Trump, free trade is being overtaken by protectionism. The only “free trade” deal the UK will be able to get with the USA is one that puts American interests 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th etc.

    (2) In other areas e.g. India, free trade is being linked to visa liberalisation right at the moment when the PM has promised to cut immigration. Mrs May was the leading force in the UK vetoeing (spelling?) the EU – India trade deal because she refused to consider visa liberalisation. When she visited India earlier this year, the Indians repeated that any trade deal needed to include visa liberalisation and Mrs May stuck to her position, so that’s a stalemate. The EU unencumbered by Britain may however find it easier to make a trade deal with India.

    (3) The UK negotiating alone (market of 65m, now world’s 6th or is it 7th economy?) against major players like China and Japan won’t hold the same sway as the EU. While we’re not as small as Switzerland, they got a trade deal with China by agreeing to open all their markets to the Chinese and wait 15 years to access Chinese markets. This is realpolitik and “believing in Brexit” won’t change it.

    (4) It is realistic for the UK to get deals with smaller free trade favourable countries like Australia, New Zealand and Canada. However, the UK already trades with these countries and that trade is minimal, so the positive impact of such trade deals won’t be large.

    (5) Leaving the EU means losing access to trade deals/arrangements with over 50 non EU countries as well as the EU27/single market, which represent 45% of UK exports. It will not be easy to replicate this and certainly it can’t be done quickly except via an interim EEA type deal, which the Brexiters will never accept.

    Negotiators always need expert advice from people who can when necessary act as devil’s advocate, but the Brexiters want advice only from people who “believe in Brexit” (no knowledge or experience of trade/EU/WTO etc is required).

  • Emma Walsh

    “Malcolm it makes better sense to have people who are indifferent to or opposed to Brexit negotiating as they will likely scrutinise any deal more closely to ensure that it is in the best interests of the country not a specific political doctrine.

    Sorry but I can’t agree. The decision to leave the EU has been taken. It will be much easier if the lead negotiators believe in what they are doing and that’s to get the UK out. Personally I wish the remain camp had won, but we didn’t we lost and ignoring the referendum result could cause the UK far more problems than leaving the EU.

  • @malc ” The decision to leave the EU has been taken.”

    Err no! You’ve obviously not been paying attention. the decision to leave will only be ‘taken’ IF, May triggers Article 50. The question is whether she is a Margaret Thatcher and stands up (I recommend you read her Bruges speech http://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/107332), or meekly does what a small clique in the Conservative party tell her to do…

    Currently, given what has happened since the May has taken office, I expect May to trigger Article 50 in circumstances, not dissimilar to the way previous PM’s got EU treaties approved by Parliament. Hence why she wants to avoid Parliamentary scrutiny of her governments Brexit strategy and we are hearing calls wanting to blackmail Parliament and the House of Lords into agreeing to whatever May’s backers want. Thus May will show that she is more the heir of Chamberlain and not Thatcher ie. spineless, even though the UK press will try and dress it up as something bold…

  • meekly does what a small clique in the Conservative party tell her to do

    Well, what a small clique in the Conservative party plus 17 million voters tell her to do.

  • Denis Loretto 4th Jan '17 - 11:34am

    I am not the first to find increasing echoes of Orwell in current developments but the degree to which major predictions in “1984” (I used to think it was dystopian satire) are taking shape before our eyes is becoming frightening.

    One of the three main Party slogans was “Ignorance is Strength”. Brexiteer comment on the Rogers resignation demands not just that senior civil servants (not politicians, mind) accept and work within the referendum decision but are “enthusiastic” about it. It stands to reason that those officials who have worked closely on and have detailed knowledge of European affairs are likely to understand and support the kind of co-operation that the EU embodies, even though they will also be well aware of defects and need for improvement and/or reform. So how are they suddenly going to be “enthusiastic” about undoing it all?

    So by definition the hard brexiteers want people with scant experience and knowledge in this vital area to lead what is largely agreed to be the most complex and difficult negotiations the country has ever faced. Another page turned in the process begun by Michael Gove’s crass observation that we have had enough of experts. “Ignorance is Strength” takes place before our eyes.

  • It stands to reason that those officials who have worked closely on and have detailed knowledge of European affairs are likely to understand and support the kind of co-operation that the EU embodies, even though they will also be well aware of defects and need for improvement and/or reform. So how are they suddenly going to be “enthusiastic” about undoing it all?

    But this is always going to be the case when you change the direction of policy: your civil service will be staffed with people who are likely to understand and support the way things are done, because they’ve been running it.

    Say you have a privatised industry X and you decide to nationalise it. Because it’s private, you don’t have any in-house talent; you have to recruit the very people who have been running the private industry, who see the world in those terms. How can you expect them to be ‘enthusiastic’ about undoing all that?

    Flip it around and you have the same issue: you have a nationalised industry and you decide to privatise it. But all the people who run it are people who are steeped in the world-view that X works as a nationalised industry, with all the regulation and civil service infrastructure that entails. How can you expect them to be enthusiastic about dismantling all that and leaving it to the whims of the market?

    Leaving the EU is the same thing, but bigger. Of course people who have been working in the status quo think that the status quo is a good idea: that’s why they work in it! It’s only natural.

    So it stands to reason that now we are leaving, we are going to have to look outside those who have got comfortable with the status quo.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 4th Jan '17 - 1:15pm

    David Raw has a nice line in sarcasm well put here commenting on j Dunn , as with msrs Walker and Hill , above , whatever entices j dunn on here , some think we are divided between various strands of Liberalism , but , although I believe that view to be overdone , I cannot fathom where the Liberal understanding is in comments such as Mr dunn on here re: Sir I van.

    And I am on the more EU pragmatic or even , strongly criticising wing of our party prepared to get on with a good constructive Brexit ! Some comments have more in common with the egregious Farage !

  • Denis Loretto 4th Jan '17 - 1:16pm

    @Dav
    Are you seriously making the case that if and when an industrial company faces major change such as takeover or nationalisation the first thing the new owners should do is to get rid of all the experienced senior staff who know how the thing works? Have you ever run a business?

  • Are you seriously making the case that if and when an industrial company faces major change such as takeover or nationalisation the first thing the new owners should do is to get rid of all the experienced senior staff who know how the thing works?

    I’m saying that it wouldn’t be unusual for the senior staff in such a situation, faced with a major change that they disagree with, to quit.

    Which seems to be what has happened here.

  • Denis Loretto 4th Jan '17 - 2:18pm

    @dav
    You do realise that one of main assets sought by an acquirer of a business is the
    expertise of the senior staff, to the extent that an agreement to tie the key people in for an adequate period is often part of the deal.u

    Tds

  • Denis Loretto 4th Jan '17 - 2:21pm

    Sorry about the extraneous letters at the foot of my recent post. They are of no significance.

  • You do realise that one of main assets sought by an acquirer of a business is the
    expertise of the senior staff, to the extent that an agreement to tie the key people in for an adequate period is often part of the deal

    The comparison isn’t the acquisition of a business, though, but the forced nationalisation of an industry. The government can’t legally require people who have been happily working at senior positions in private companies to become civil servants and do their jobs for the government when the industry is nationalised.

    (Well of course governments can do that, but usually when they do they are run by people called Stalin or Castro).

    So if the government were to, say, renationalise the railways using legislation, you must agree it would be quite likely that a lot of the senior executives of train companies would quit and seek other jobs in the private sector rather than become civil servants and help implement a policy they presumably fundamentally disagree with.

    The ambassador in questions clearly fundamentally disagreed that the UK leaving the EU is the right course of action., It is hardly surprising therefore that rather than take a key rôle implementing a policy he believes to be fundamentally mistaken, which will involve him putting a lot of effort and thought in in service of a goal he thinks misguided, he would rather quit, is it?

  • Ironically, of course, apparently this guy is one of those most responsible for the vote going to Leave, because he is the one who talked Cameron into accepting basically nothing in the renegotiation. Had Cameron actually managed to get even a single meaningful concession in the form of a return-of-powers from the EU in his renegotiation, the vote would likely have gone the other way. But Sir Ivan kept telling Cameron that what he was asking for was impossible.

    So the only person Sir Ivan has to blame for this, is himself.

  • With everything Brexit it is essential to go back to primary sources; the full text of Sir Ivan Rogers “message to his staff” can be found here.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-38503504

    It makes interesting reading – it certainly shows just how desperate the media et al to create conflict and news. Interestingly, I saw this article when first posted by the BBC, going to find the link now and I note it isn’t referenced by the subsequent articles on the matter…

  • Denis Loretto 4th Jan '17 - 6:09pm

    May I just say that many posts on this thread are addressing the suitability or otherwise of Sir Ivan Rogers as an individual for the post of EU Ambassador – questioning for example his performance in attempting to achieve reforms sufficient to save Cameron’s skin prior to the referendum. I think the more important issue is the demand by brexiters that whoever replaces Sir Ivan be an enthusiastic supporter of their cause. My posts have been directed at the dangers and inadequacies that an approach of this sort would introduce.

    Even as I type this the announcement has been made of Sir Tim Barrow’s appointment. My immediate reaction to this is relief. Sir Tim would not be regarded as deeply europhile but not gagging for hard brexit either. He has the right experience and should be able to do a good job if he gets the necessary political support.

  • Sir Tim Barrows first words on his appointment were:

    ” 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.”

    That statement alone will be enough to satisfy most brexiteers.

  • @Dav – The ambassador in questions clearly fundamentally disagreed that the UK leaving the EU is the right course of action.

    There is no evidence to back that claim up other tha IDS’ bizarre claim – and I say bizarre because he basically claimed that the government left in place an ambassador they didn’t trust even though they obviously could have reassigned him or sacked him in the last six months. That’s basically saying the government was incompetent.

  • There is no evidence to back that claim up other tha IDS’ bizarre claim – and I say bizarre because he basically claimed that the government left in place an ambassador they didn’t trust even though they obviously could have reassigned him or sacked him in the last six months. That’s basically saying the government was incompetent.

    Nothing has suggested that the government ‘didn’t trust’ him as an ambassador, in the sense that they thought him might be leaking secrets, or unable to do his normal duties as ambassador before the negotiations start, or something like that. Just that he, and they, might both have realised that, given his obvious strong feelings about the direction of policy, he might not be the best person to start off the negotiations once they do begin.

  • Bill le Breton 5th Jan '17 - 12:01pm

    How wise Roland is to suggest people read the full text of the ‘message to staff’.

    There was also a very interesting interview with Max Parson who was part of Cameron’s negotiation team in early 2016.

    He says he believes that more could have been obtained had negotiations been able to continue for a longer period.

    Doors and opportunities were shut because Cameron had set, for domestic political purposes, a target date of June for the referendum. His contribution can be found here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b086t0m8#play 2hrs 50 mins in.

    The BBC seem to suggest that the former Ambassador is against there being a role for campaigners and activists. If he is, he’s wrong. When you possess power technocrats are perhaps all you need. When you do not have power (or sufficient power) campaigners need to be part of the team.

    Didn’t we relearn that during our time in Coalition (partial power) with the Tories?

  • Bill le Breton re: The BBC seem to suggest that the former Ambassador is against there being a role for campaigners and activists. If he is, he’s wrong.

    One of the things I found particularly interesting about this copy of the message was the highlighting of sentences the media has quoted along with journalist asides, this
    giving an insight into the distorted reality of the media. With this particular quote it is obvious that journalist could only arrive at their viewpoint by either having access to other sources or by having overactive imaginations, because surely the purpose of UKREP is to provide ministers with “detailed, unvarnished – even where this is uncomfortable – and nuanced understanding of the views, interests and incentives of the other 27.”.

    What is clear the media and others don’t like truth; you only need to read a few of the comments on LDV to see just how, even now, to see examples of “ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking” on Brexit. Looking at key government people (Theresa May, David Davis, Boris Johnson, IDS etc.), you also don’t have to look far to see similar examples. It is clear the Emperor is wearing nothing at all and the media are instead of taking up the cry are instead trying to stifle it.

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