Ivan Rogers has revealed what we suspected—the government has no clue about Brexit, says Tom Brakeby Tom Brake / January 4, 2017 / Leave a comment
This is the most important juncture in the recent history of our country. A moment when clarity and vision are needed more than ever. And yet yesterday, Ivan Rogers resigned his position as Britain’s ambassador to the European Union. In his resignation letter, he implied that the Conservative government is bogged down in “ill-founded arguments” and “muddled thinking” and called on his former colleagues to “speak truth to power.” It is being reported that Tim Barrow, political director at the Foreign Office, will replace him.
My reaction to the resignation, like that of many of my fellow MPs, was “wow.” Not because it told us anything we didn’t already suspect, but because the former ambassador has been a witness to the government’s so-called Brexit “strategy” from the start. I put “strategy” in quote marks because Rogers, up until now our man in Brussels, says Britain doesn’t have one: no negotiating position, no means of achieving it, no plan—and seemingly no clue.
Yet rather than taking this as a wake-up call, the response of Theresa May’s control-obsessed government was to brief against someone widely regarded as among our most able—and neutral—diplomats. It should hardly be controversial to say that we need our top people around the table to prevent Brexit from wrecking the country. Instead vital, talented people like Rogers are being driven away.
Twenty years ago, Nick Clegg worked for Rogers in the EU, then Rogers worked for him and the rest of the Liberal Democrat-Conservative coalition. Clegg reports that Rogers was “punctiliously objective and rigorous” in his advice, concluding that his resignation is a “spectacular own goal.” “The Government needs all the help it can get from good civil servants to deliver a workable Brexit,” said Clegg.
But rather than working with the civil service, this Conservative government is actively working against it. Reports claim that officials going to see Brexit Secretary David Davis have been told only to present him with good news—a variant, perhaps, on the three wise monkeys who “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” If you were more cynical you would call it Kafkaesque.
My sense is that, six months on from the referendum, ministers still haven’t got their heads round just what a monumental challenge they face. According to…