Britain’s former ambassador to the EU has accused Theresa May of “culpable naivety” in Brexit negotiations and warned that the British establishment is running on “PPE tutorial level plausible bullshit”.
Sir Ivan Rogers, who was the UK’s permanent representative to the EU until 2017, when he quit after a run-in with Downing Street, said the EU had the UK “against the wall” and would continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Describing the Government’s approach to talks, Sir Ivan suggested Theresa May’s bid to placate hardline Brexiteers in her own party meant she had boxed herself in with red lines before talks had even properly begun.
“Nearly two and a half years on from the referendum, we are, in other words, both on the [deal with the EU], and on other post-Brexit trade deals, still lost in campaign mode on fantasy island,” he told an audience at Cambridge University.
Sir Ivan said the UK was embarking on the process with “no plan and little planning, oodles of PPE tutorial level plausible bullshit, supreme self confidence that we understand others’ real interests better than they do, a complete inability to fathom the nature and incentives of the [EU’s] ancien regime”.
While he did not explicitly name the Prime Minister, he said he had seen “extraordinary – indeed I would say culpable – naivete … almost daily for two years”.
“Faced by a UK which essentially wants all the benefits of unchanged free trade from its EU membership days, with none / few of the obligations, the EU repeatedly says: “that is just never going to be on offer, and you must choose between a Canadian style relationship, which offers you much greater autonomy but much lower access to our market, and a Norwegian type deal which offers far better market access but much less autonomy,” he said.
“It was never going to say anything else. It was always going to put first the integrity of its current legal order and the need to demonstrate a very clear distinction between the benefits available to members, and the best that could ever be on offer to any third country. And it was never going to change its legal order for the benefit of a state that had chosen to leave it.”
Sir Ivan’s departure at the start of 2017 was seen as a blow for the Government because of his experience in dealing with Brussels
In his departing memo to staff at the UK’s Permanent Representative he urged them to fight “ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking” in Government and said they should “never be afraid to speak the truth to those in power”.
The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.