Ivan Rogers' resignation letter tells you just how little has been done to prepare for Brexit – Business Insider

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Former
Prime Minister David Cameron (L) and Sir Ivan Rogers in
2014

PA

LONDON — Sir Ivan Rogers unexpectedly quit as
t
he
British ambassador to the European Union on Tuesday
, calling
on former colleagues to challenge
“muddled thinking” and “ill-founded arguments” during the Brexit
talks
.

He was expected to renew his position when his 4-year-term
expires in November so that he could play a leading role in talks
between Britain and the EU.

His resignation means the UK government has suddenly and
unexpectedly lost one of its most experienced and knowledgeable
negotiators just weeks before withdrawal talks get underway at
the end of March.

The resignation letter,
first reported by The Telegraph in full,
contains thinly
veiled attacks on the way the government was so far handling the
Brexit process, such as ” serious multilateral negotiating
experience is in short supply in Whitehall.” It also makes clear
that the government has not communicated to its top negotiators
what the UK’s strategy will be in the Article 50 talks even
though they are due to start in March. 

The more pointed barbs include:

  • “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 in the coming months
    and years of negotiations over ‘Brexit’.”
  • “We do not yet know what the Government will set as
    negotiating objectives for the UK’s relationship with the EU
    after exit.”
  • “Serious multilateral negotiating experience is in short
    supply in Whitehall, and that is not the case in the Commission
    or in the Council.”
  • “Senior ministers, who will decide on our positions, issue by
    issue, also need from you detailed, unvarnished – even where this
    is uncomfortable – and nuanced understanding of the views,
    interests and incentives of the other 27.”
  • “Contrary to the beliefs of some, free trade does not just
    happen when it is not thwarted by authorities …”

Here is the letter in full:

Dear All,

Happy New Year! I hope that you have all had/are still having, a
great break, and that you will come back refreshed and ready for
an exciting year ahead.

I am writing to you all on the first day back to tell you that I
am today resigning as Permanent Representative.

As most of you will know, I started here in November 2013. My
four-year tour is therefore due to end in October – although in
practice if we had been doing the Presidency my time here would
have been extended by a few months.

As we look ahead to the likely timetable for the next few years,
and with the invocation of Article 50 coming up shortly, it is
obvious that it will be best if the top team in situ at the time
that Article 50 is invoked remains there till the end of the
process and can also see through the negotiations for any new
deal between the UK and the EU27.

It would obviously make no sense for my role to change hands
later this year.

I have therefore decided to step down now, having done everything
that I could in the last six months to contribute my experience,
expertise and address book to get the new team at political and
official level under way. This will permit a new appointee to be
in place by the time Article 50 is invoked.

Importantly, it will also enable that person to play a role in
the appointment of Shan’s replacement as DPR.* I know from
experience – both my own hugely positive experience of working in
partnership with Shan, and from seeing past, less happy, examples
– how imperative it is that the PR and DPR operate as a team, if
UKREP is to function as well as I believe it has done over the
last few years.

I want to put on record how grateful I am to Shan for the great
working relationship we have had. She will be hugely missed in
UKREP, and by many others here in Brussels, but she will be a
tremendous asset to the Welsh Government.

From my soundings before Christmas, I am optimistic that there
will be a very good field of candidates for the DPR role. But it
is right these two roles now get considered and filled alongside
each other, and for my successor to play the leading role in
making the DPR appointment. I shall therefore stand aside from
the process at this point.

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 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.

But 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. Senior ministers, who will decide on our positions,
issue by issue, also need from you detailed, unvarnished – even
where this is uncomfortable – and nuanced understanding of the
views, interests and incentives of the other 27.

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 great strength of the UK system – at least as it has been
perceived by all others in the EU – has always been its unique
combination of policy depth, expertise and coherence, message
co-ordination and discipline, and the ability to negotiate with
skill and determination. UKREP has always been key to all of
that. We shall need it more than ever in the years ahead.

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. I shall advise my successor to continue to make these
points.

Meanwhile, I would urge you all to stick with it, to keep on
working at intensifying your links with opposite numbers in DEXEU
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 to the renegotiation.

Of all of these posts, I have enjoyed being the Permanent
Representative more than any other I have ever held. That is,
overwhelmingly, because of all of you and what you all make
UKREP: a supremely professional place, with a fantastic
co-operative culture, which brings together talented people
whether locally employed or UK-based and uniquely brings together
people from the home civil service with those from the Foreign
Office. UKREP sets itself demanding standards, but people also
take the time to support each other which also helps make it an
amazingly fun and stimulating place to work. I am grateful for
everything you have all done over the last few years to make this
such a fantastic operation.

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. I
hope that you will always provide the best advice and counsel you
can to the politicians that our people have elected, and be proud
of the essential role we play in the service of a great
democracy.



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