Former EU ambassador blames Boris Johnson for creating 'biggest Brexit crisis'

Ben Gartside
Reporter
Ivan Rogers, Britain's former permanent representative of the United Kingdom to the European Union. Photo: Neil Hall/Reuters

Britain’s former ambassador to the European Union, Ivan Rogers, has accused Boris Johnson of constructing “the biggest crisis of Brexit to date”, in a lecture in Glasgow on Monday night.

Accusing the government of “diplomatic amateurism” and of repeating Theresa May’s “strategic errors”, Rogers said that “the biggest crisis of Brexit to date” was “virtually inevitable” in late 2020, due to Johnson’s self-imposed deadline of not extending the 11-month transition period if the UK passes the Withdrawal Agreement by 31 January 2020.

Rogers said: “In practice, this prime minister is, for all his talk of getting Brexit done, now basically replicating the strategy errors of 2016 and 2017, which brought his predecessor down ... This is diplomatic amateurism dressed up domestically as boldness and decisiveness ... It all points to a repetition of exactly the syndrome we have suffered for the last three [years].

“And a repetition of myopia on which ultimately lands us with a poor and deteriorating relationship on multiple things that really matter, economically and strategically.”

READ MORE: Britain suffering financial crime 'epidemic', watchdog warns

While Rogers said a trade deal was achievable by the end of 2020, the type of deal achieved would be “quick and dirty”. He suggested that such a deal could see issues for the UK fishing industry over rights in British waters, and potentially see the UK services industry excluded from it.

Rogers described a potential agreement as “a very thin, Canada minus minus deal”, hinting at a very basic free trade deal, and said that both sides were risking a no-trade deal” in the short- to medium-term and “a very difficult relationship after that”.

READ MORE: Government 'unsympathetic' to major bust bond scheme investors

Rogers attributed the likelihood of achieving a poor deal to the desire to “get brexit done”, and the concessions that would need to be made in order to achieve immediacy upon the pledge.

Rogers also underlined the difficulty of the detail of free trade negotiations, saying there was “no escape from ball-achingly technical and lengthy negotiations” involved in creating a Free Trade Agreement.

Rogers did not spare Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn or Remain supporters from criticism either. Attacking Corbyn’s Brexit position, Rogers described his stance of “getting Brexit sorted” within six months as “[deserving] the Brussels eye-rolling it duly gets”, while attacking “remainers” as “in denial about where mainstream continental elite opinion is.”