David Fuller's view -
Theresa May has appointed Sir Tim Barrow, a career diplomat, as the new British ambassador to the EU in Brussels, replacing Sir Ivan Rogers, who quit on Tuesday.
Her decision means she has ignored calls from within the Tory party to appoint a wholehearted Brexiter – possibly from outside of the civil service – to the job.
Rogers, the head of UKRep – in effect the UK embassy in Brussels – resigned in frustration on Tuesday urging his fellow civil servants to provide impartial advice, and stand up to muddled thinking. He also made clear he thought that the UK government not only lacked an agreed exit strategy, but also a coherent exit negotiating team.
Barrow was the UK ambassador to Moscow until 2015 and in March 2016 succeeded Sir Simon Gass as political director at the Foreign Office. He has extensive European experience and acted as first secretary at UKRep. His appointment is also a victory for the Foreign Office, which lost the UKRep post to former Treasury officials in 2012.
May is due to trigger article 50, to formally start EU talks, in March, requiring her to urgently recruit someone committed to delivering Brexit, but also knowledgeable about how the labyrinthine EU works.
Barrow said: “I am honoured to be appointed as the UK’s permanent representative to the EU at this crucial time. I look forward to joining the strong leadership team at the Department for Exiting the EU and working with them and the talented staff at UKRep to ensure we get the right outcome for the United Kingdom as we leave the EU.”
A Downing Street spokesperson called Barrow “a seasoned and tough negotiator, with extensive experience of securing UK objectives in Brussels”. They added: “He will bring his trademark energy and creativity to this job, working alongside other senior officials and ministers to make a success of Brexit.”
Theresa May certainly needs a British ambassador who is committed to delivering a successful Brexit. Sir Tim Barrow apparently has the presence and credentials for this important task, including being “knowledgeable about how the labyrinthine EU works”. However, the UK should not be playing the labyrinthine game, designed to deter countries from leaving the EU. Until EU negotiators fully understand that a quick, hard Brexit is not only a possibility, but would also be preferred by many UK citizens and businesses, negotiations will be a waste of time.
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