Brexit blow: UK's top EU diplomat quits as Article 50 deadline looms

Opinion piece (International Business Times)
Simon Tilford
03 January 2017

Simon Tilford, deputy director of the Centre for European Reform, spoke to IBTimes UK about Rogers' resignation.

How much of a blow is this to the UK government?

It's a blow to that bit of the government that still believes that Britain can negotiate a fairly close relationship with the EU.

I don't think it's a blow to the other wing of the government that favours – if not a clean break with the EU – but certainly a much less close relationship with it.

So it's a blow to Theresa may and Philip Hammond, I don't know if it's a blow to the government as whole because the government is so badly split on what kind of relationship Britain should be aiming for it.

I think it's bad news for Britain as a whole, it's bad news for the British economy and British interests more generally, which I think would be served by negotiating a closer arrangement as possible.

This makes this less likely unfortunately because Rogers was one of a dwindling band of officials brave enough to subject to objective scrutiny. With Rogers gone, Britain's negotiating task is that much more difficult.

We will see who they replace him with, but there are no obvious candidates and the risk is that May succumbs to pressure from some of her cabinet ministers to appoint someone who is more acceptable to the hard Brexit camp within the government.

Will the EU and Michel Barnier be boosted by Rogers' departure?

They won't see it as a boost to them because they don't actually want a hard Brexit and very weak links between the UK and the rest of the EU.

Part of the problem with the UK is that so much of the coverage of this issue is dominated by the conjecture and prejudices of the Eurosceptic camp, who like to portray the rest of the EU, particularly France, as out to get the UK.

No one in the rest of the EU will see this is a bad news because it's going to make it even harder to come to the necessary deals and trade-offs.

Simon Tilford is deputy director at the Centre for European Reform.