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Brexit: Jolt to May as UK envoy alleges ‘muddled thinking’

Britain’s envoy to the EU has resigned weeks before crucial talks on Brexit, saying there is “muddled thinking” in the Theresa May government on the issue of leaving the bloc.

world Updated: Jan 04, 2017 21:39 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Britain,Brexit,European Union
File photo of Britain's ambassador to the European Union, Ivan Rogers, showing him leaving the EU Summit in Brussels, Belgium, on June 28, 2016. (Reuters)

Britain’s ambassador to the European Union has confirmed what many in London and Brussels believed - that there is “muddled thinking” among those responsible for taking the country out of the bloc, and resigned his post weeks before crucial Brexit talks are to begin.

Ivan Rogers, considered one of the top British experts on the EU, put 10 Downing Street on the backfoot after writing a resignation email to his staff in Brussels, asking colleagues to “speak truth to power” and to tell ministers “unvarnished” and “uncomfortable” views from Europe.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s government is accused of not having a plan or clarity on Brexit, with sharp divisions among political parties. May has insisted she will try to get the best possible deal for Britain after triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to exit the EU by the end of March.

Rogers, who was due to leave his post later this year, resigned to make way for his successor before Article 50 is triggered. His email to staff said the "government will only achieve the best for the country if it harnesses the best experience we have".

Downing Street said it would not comment on the resignation email, though Rogers was "free to express his own opinions".

But former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, who campaigned to leave the EU during last year’s referendum, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that when a civil servant "starts going public", ministers "can no longer trust that individual".

Rogers told his staff: "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."

He said the government would only succeed if it "negotiates resolutely", adding, in a reference to the remaining 27 EU states: "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."

First Published: Jan 04, 2017 19:09 IST