Johnson’s ‘diplomatic amateurism’ could cause Brexit chaos, warns ex-EU ambassador

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British prime minister Boris Johnson’s claims he will get Brexit done are “diplomatic amateurism” and his deal will be even harder to achieve than Theresa May’s, a former ambassador to the EU has warned.

Ivan Rogers, who was the senior civil servant dealing with Brexit after the EU referendum until his resignation in 2017, said the biggest crisis in the UK’s attempts to leave is still a year away.

Arguing the UK has been mired in a “political shambles” since the 2016 vote, Ivan said politicians have been “thinking purely tactically and short-term” and suggested Government ministers may be deliberately lying to the public about the reality facing the country.

Ivan Rogers

In a speech at the University of Glasgow, Ivan rubbished claims by ministers that a trade deal with the EU can be completed next year.

He added talks breaking down before the end of 2020 – when the future trading relationship is supposed to be settled – “is much likelier than people realise”.

Ivan told the Policy Scotland lecture: “The further ‘out’ of the European Union we choose to go, and therefore the further we want to go, the longer it will take to negotiate the necessary agreements.

“This is the first critical point which Government ministers either repeatedly continue to get wrong or choose to mislead the British public about when talking in these weeks about ‘getting Brexit done’.”

The EU side is already – as in late 2016 and early 2017 – methodically getting on designing the sequencing of the new process which will maximise its leverage in the next phase

Ivan said the Prime Minister’s claims a Brexit deal could be concluded swiftly were “diplomatic amateurism dressed up domestically as boldness and decisiveness” and were actually strengthening the EU’s negotiating position.

“It may indeed work splendidly at home, where understandable public boredom and frustration with endless Brexit agonising of course plays well for it,” he said.

“But meanwhile, the EU side is already – as in late 2016 and early 2017 – methodically getting on designing the sequencing of the new process which will maximise its leverage in the next phase.

“Or indeed the next many phases, as I personally think there are several more to come.”

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