The UK’s ambassador to the European Union (EU), Sir Ivan Rogers, today unexpectedly resigned from the post. The senior diplomat had been expected to lead the UK’s Brexit negotiations with the economic bloc but was recently in the eye of a storm following the leak of an internal memo in which he claimed leaving the EU could take up to a decade.
The UK Foreign Office confirmed the resignation on Tuesday but has declined to give any reasons behind the move at this stage. Labour MP Hilary Benn, who chairs the UK Parliament’s Brexit Select Committee, said the resignation had come at a "crucial" time. “It couldn't be a more difficult time to organise a handover," he said.
Rogers occupied the post of the United Kingdom Permanent Representation to the European Union (UKRep), which represents the UK in negotiations that take place in the EU. UKRep is one of the busiest posts, with a team sourced from over 20 UK government departments working to ensure that UK policies are explained to other EU member states, the European Commission and members of the European Parliament.
Rogers, a veteran civil servant, was due to leave his post in November 2017 but is stepping down early.
Last month, it emerged that he had privately told ministers a UK-EU trade deal might take 10 years to finalise. The leak of the private memo is believed to have caused him a lot of embarrassment and strained relations with Downing Street. British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced her intention to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treat to trigger official talks for Britain's exit from the EU by the end of March this year. Rogers was expected to play a central role in those deliberations. However, now the government will need to put a replacement in place.
Leave EU, a pro-Brexit campaign group, tweeted: "Pessimist Rogers - who warned Brexit would take 10 years - is to leave his post as UK Ambassador to the EU. Good - time for some optimism!"
However, Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform think tank, warned that Sir Ivan Rogers’ departure “makes a good deal on Brexit less likely”.