Ministers move quickly
Moscow diplomat takes on Brexit negotiations
Senior diplomat Sir Tim Barrow (far left) is a former ambassador to Moscow, who will now play a key role in the UK’s Brexit talks.
Sir Ivan’s (right) exit prompted a row with his resignation note criticising “muddled thinking” over the Brexit issue from UK ministers.
Sir Tim was the UK’s ambassador to Moscow from 2011 to 2015. He has also advised a succession of foreign secretaries as well as holding other roles in the UK’s EU mission.
His predecessor in Brussels was appointed by former PM David Cameron in 2013 and was expected to play a key role in the talks over Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.
It was revealed some weeks ago that he had privately told ministers that a trade deal with the EU might take 10 years.
Labour described his departure as “deeply worrying” while the government insisted that he has taken this decision now to enable a successor to be appointed before the UK invokes Article 50 by the end of March.
“We are grateful for his work and commitment over the last three years,” said a spokesman.
However, it later emerged that he had written to staff, saying ministers needed to hear “unvarnished” and “uncomfortable” views from Europe.
Analysts said the letter indicated that his advice was being ignored.
The BBC has seen a copy of the note, which states: “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 “harnesses the best experience we have” and “negotiates resolutely”.
In a reference to the remaining 27 EU he 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.”