Britain’s outgoing ambassador to the European Union said Prime Minister Theresa May’s negotiating objectives for Brexit were unknown to her government’s representatives in Brussels, the BBC reported.
In a letter to staff announcing his resignation less than three months before May triggers formal exit talks, Ivan Rogers said London lacked experienced negotiators and urged the team on the ground in Brussels to challenge muddled thinking.
“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,” Rogers said in the letter, which was published in full by the BBC. [bbc.in/2iAW8Ew]
Beyond general comments about getting the best possible deal for Britain when it leaves the bloc, May has given little away about her negotiating aims, arguing that she did not want to weaken her position by showing all her cards.
Rogers suggested that even his former team, which will play a key role in the complex negotiations with the 27 other EU members, was in the dark about what the government wanted.
“We do not yet know what the government will set as negotiating objectives for the UK’s relationship with the EU after exit,” Rogers wrote.
He also emphasised the importance of technical expertise and detailed knowledge of positions on the other side of the table and the reasons for them, saying that many future opportunities would hang on “the precise shape of deals we can negotiate”.
“Contrary to the beliefs of some, free trade does not just happen when it is not thwarted by authorities,” he wrote in a pointed criticism of Liam Fox, the trade minister, who has argued that free trade flourished when governments got out of the way.
“Increasing market access to other markets and consumer choice in our own, depends on the deals, multilateral, plurilateral and bilateral that we strike, and the terms that we agree,” wrote Rogers.
(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)