Sir Ivan Rogers met the former UK Prime Minister David Cameron before unexpectedly quitting as the British ambassador to the European Union on January 3, to warn him that incumbent leader Theresa May was messing up Brexit talks.
According to The Sunday Times, Rogers told Cameron that Britain is heading towards a “disorderly” departure from the EU and that Brexit will lead to “mutually assured destruction” between the UK and 28-nation bloc because May was not doing enough to prevent it.
“Rogers spoke to Cameron. His biggest fear was that the biggest issue is not hard or soft Brexit, but whether we have an orderly or a disorderly Brexit,” said a source familiar with the conversation, cited by The Sunday Times.
“He thinks we are heading for a car crash, where we don’t get a deal and we crash out with nothing. Downing Street’s view was that he should stop being such a pessimist.
“Rogers thinks we need to plan for a disorderly Brexit on our terms rather than theirs. No 10 has not given that the priority it deserves.”
Rogers unexpectedly quit as the British ambassador to the European Union on Tuesday, calling on former colleagues to challenge “muddled thinking” and “ill-founded arguments” during the Brexit talks.
He was expected to renew his position when his 4-year-term expires in November so that he could play a leading role in talks between Britain and the EU.
The resignation letter contained thinly veiled attacks on the way the government was so far handling the Brexit process, such as “serious multilateral negotiating experience is in short supply in Whitehall.” It also makes clear that the government has not communicated to its top negotiators what the UK’s strategy will be in the Article 50 talks even though they are due to start in March.
Immediately after Rogers’ resignation, the government’s Brexit department tried to take direct control over negotiations with the EU.
The Financial Times reported that sources close to the Brexit process say Olly Robbins, the permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting the EU, tried to stop the appointment of a new British ambassador to the EU. Instead, Robbins suggested the appointment of a lesser position of a director-general who would report to him.
However, the Foreign Office blocked the move, according to the FT.
A day after Rogers resigned, the government appointed the former UK ambassador to Russia, Sir Tim Barrow, to replace Rogers. Barrow was Britain’s ambassador to Russia from 2011 to 2015.