New Year, New Ambassador, Same Dilemmas


While we may have entered a new year, with the resignation of Sir Ivan Rogers 2017 in UK politics has begun much the same way 2016 ended – dominated by Brexit and characterised by uncertainty over the UK Government’s position on the impending negotiations with the EU.

The resignation of the UK’s EU Ambassador – citing “ill-founded arguments” and “muddled thinking”, while highlighting the “short supply” of multilateral negotiation experience in Whitehall – is more evidence, if any was needed, of the real challenges facing the UK Government as they seek to get the best possible deal from Brexit.

Naturally, Sir Ivan’s resignation has inspired much comment – drawing sharp criticism from pro-Brexit politicians like Iain Duncan Smith.  On the other side of the debate, former Treasury permanent secretary Nick Macpherson what he called a “wilful and total destruction of EU expertise” while George Eaton writing in the New Statesman rails against those valuing “ideological purity, rather than expertise” in civil servants.

The new EU Ambassador, Sir Tim Barrow – a former Ambassador to Russia, described as “a seasoned and tough negotiator” now faces the task of securing the UK an acceptable Brexit deal, and with Theresa May having committed to triggering Article 50 by the end of March, his honeymoon period in his new role may not last too long.

With the real battle over Brexit about to get underway in Brussels, Westminster and Holyrood, Policy Scotland will be running a series of seminars and events that we hope will inform the policy debate on this vital issue – starting with our 2017 Annual Lecture on January 18th.

The lecture will be given by one of the previous occupants of the EU Ambassador’s post, Lord John Kerr – the author of Article 50 – and will be entitled “Brexit:  Is the Train Crash Avoidable”.  Tickets for the event are available here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/brexit-is-the-train-crash-avoidable-tickets-30129961526