Sir Ivan Rogers’ resignation email: what it says and what he means

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Sir Ivan Rogers, who has resigned as British Ambassador to the EU

The departure of Sir Ivan Rogers has stunned Downing Street and left Britain without its most senior diplomat in Brussels just as we are about to embark on two years of tortuous Brexit negotiations.

In a stinging resignation email, Sir Ivan took aim at a Theresa May, the lack of preparations for Brexit and the leading Brexiteers in the Cabinet.

He also warned that Britain lacked the skilled negotiators to take on the might of the Brussels machine.

These are the key extracts from Sir Ivan’s bombshell email and an explanation of what his comments mean:

Theresa May will not have enjoyed reading Sir Ivan’s email (Photo: REUTERS)

WHAT HE SAID:

“I know that this news will add, temporarily, to the uncertainty that I know, from our many discussions in the autumn, you are all feeling about the role of UKREP (UK Representative to the EU) in the coming months and years of negotiations over ‘ Brexit ’. I am sorry about that, but I hope that it will help produce earlier and greater clarity on the role that UKREP should play.

“My own view remains as it has always been. We do not yet know what the Government will set as negotiating objectives for the UK’s relationship with the EU after exit. There is much we will not know until later this year about the political shape of the EU itself, and who the political protagonists in any negotiation with the UK will be.”

WHAT HE MEANS:

Sir Ivan starts with a couple of quick stabs of the blade albeit clothed in diplomatic language.

Firstly, he gently notes that the Brexit negotiations will take “months and years” – a reference to his previous warning it could take a decade to extricate ourselves from the EU.

Note also how he puts the word Brexit in inverted commas, implying that it might not actually happen.

Having put the knife in, he then twists it by accusing the Government of not yet having a negotiating strategy (“objectives”) or a ministerial negotiating team in place.

The European Council building in Brussels

WHAT HE SAID:

“In any negotiation which addresses the new relationship, the technical expertise, the detailed knowledge of positions on the other side of the table – and the reasons for them, and the divisions amongst them – and the negotiating experience and savvy that the people in this building bring, make it essential for all parts of UKREP to be centrally involved in the negotiations if the UK is to achieve the best possible outcomes.

“Serious multilateral negotiating experience is in short supply in Whitehall, and that is not the case in the Commission or in the Council. The Government will only achieve the best for the country if it harnesses the best experience we have – a large proportion of which is concentrated in UKREP – and negotiates resolutely.

“The structure of the UK’s negotiating team and the allocation of roles and responsibilities to support that team, needs rapid resolution. The working methods which enable the team in London and Brussels to function seamlessly need also to be strengthened.

The country does need experts, Sir Ivan suggests to Michael Gove

WHAT HE MEANS:

This is a riposte to those who agree with Michael Gove that the country has had enough of experts.

Sir Ivan is telling the Government that it needs people of experience and an intricate knowledge of the EU such as himself.

He then points out what others have been saying since we voted to leave: that after 40 years of delegating our trade negotiations to the EU we have a severe shortage of experienced negotiators in Whitehall.

By contrast, Brussels has some seasoned heavyweights steeped in years of trade talks.

This is Sir Ivan’s key point: we are in danger of sending a scratch eleven onto a pitch to face a premier league side of EU negotiators.

Liam Fox arrives at 10 Downing Street

WHAT HE SAID:

“As I have argued consistently at every level since June, many opportunities for the UK in the future will derive from the mere fact of having left and being free to take a different path. But others will depend entirely on the precise shape of deals we can negotiate in the years ahead.

“Contrary to the beliefs of some, free trade does not just happen when it is not thwarted by authorities: increasing market access to other markets and consumer choice in our own, depends on the deals, multilateral, plurilateral and bilateral that we strike, and the terms that we agree.”

WHAT HE MEANS:

This message is targeted with pinpoint accuracy at Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary.

Dr Fox has argued that Britain can flourish outside the EU by forging trade deals with non-EU countries such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Sir Ivan is trying to drag Dr Fox’s feet back to the ground.

While he accepts there could be opportunities for the UK outside the EU, he warns this is not automatic and will require the hard graft of negotiating trade deals, including one with the EU.

HM Foreign Office

WHAT HE SAID:

“Meanwhile, I would urge you all to stick with it, to keep on working at intensifying your links with opposite numbers in DEXEU (Department for Exiting the EU) and line Ministries and to keep on contributing your expertise to the policy-making process as negotiating objectives get drawn up. The famed UKREP combination of immense creativity with realism ground in negotiating experience, is needed more than ever right now.

“On a personal level, leaving UKREP will be a tremendous wrench. I have had the great good fortune, and the immense privilege, in my civil service career, to have held some really interesting and challenging roles: to have served four successive UK Prime Ministers very closely; to have been EU, G20 and G8 Sherpa; to have chaired a G8 Presidency and to have taken part in some of the most fraught, and fascinating, EU negotiations of the last 25 years – in areas from tax, to the MFF (Multiannual financial framework) to the renegotiation."

WHAT HE MEANS:

In the first part of this, Sir Ivan is urging his colleagues to keep David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, grounded.

They are the “realists” about Brexit who need to temper the over-optimistic ideas flowing from London.

The second paragraph is a reminder to the Prime Minister she has just lost one of her most experienced diplomats as she is about to embark on two years of intense negotiations.

Sir Ivan used the final part of his email to lambast Theresa May on Brexit (Photo: REX)

WHAT HE SAID:

“For my part, I hope that in my day-to-day dealings with you I have demonstrated the values which I have always espoused as a public servant. 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.

“I hope that you will support each other in those difficult moments where you have to deliver messages that are disagreeable to those who need to hear them. I hope that you will continue to be interested in the views of others, even where you disagree with them, and in understanding why others act and think in the way that they do.”

WHAT HE MEANS:

Sir Ivan saves his most stinging rebuke until last. Having hit the Prime Minister with a few punches, he now delivers his knock out blow.

The Government’s plan for Brexit is not clear (“muddled thinking”) and rests on rickety foundations (“ill-founded arguments”).

He then implies Downing Street does not like receiving difficult advice by urging colleagues to keep delivering “disagreeable messages.”

Obviously, the envoy adds, try to be diplomatic when telling ministers things they do not wish to hear.

This article was sourced from http://coolcountryfanmagazine.com