Sir Ivan, the man who would play a main role in the negotiations with the EU during the UKs extraction has resigned, sending a 1400-word thank you letter to his staff setting out his problems with why he felt his position was untenable and the current Governments position with regards to leaving the EU.
He begins his letter reminding the team that he was due to leave later this year
“As most of you will know, I started here in November 2013. My four-year tour is therefore due to end in October - although in practice if we had been doing the Presidency my time here would have been extended by a few months.
As we look ahead to the likely timetable for the next few years, and with the invocation of Article 50 coming up shortly, it is obvious that it will be best if the top team in situ at the time that Article 50 is invoked remains there till the end of the process and can also see through the negotiations for any new deal between the UK and the EU27.
It would obviously make no sense for my role to change hands later this year.
I have therefore decided to step down now, having done everything that I could in the last six months to contribute my experience, expertise and address book to get the new team at political and official level under way.”
He continues later with some quite striking remarks that have caused a stir such as:
“My own view remains as it has always been. We do not yet know what the government will set as negotiating objectives for the UK's relationship with the EU after exit.”
Implying that he was not told any objectives, which as chief negotiator he should have known by now I would have thought.
He finishes up with the following:
“I hope you will continue to challenge ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking and that you will never be afraid to speak the truth to those in power.
I hope that you will support each other in those difficult moments where you have to deliver messages that are disagreeable to those who need to hear them.
I hope that you will continue to be interested in the views of others, even where you disagree with them, and in understanding why others act and think in the way that they do.
I hope that you will always provide the best advice and counsel you can to the politicians that our people have elected, and be proud of the essential role we play in the service of a great democracy.”
Whilst many such as Nigel Farage celebrate his departure with comments such as "The Foreign Office needs a complete clear-out." and former Conservative cabinet minister John Redwood suggested Sir Ivan did "not really have his heart in" Brexit, and hence he had made a "very wise decision" in stepping down to make way for someone that did.
Sir Ivan’s letter raises many questions and as far as I can see behind his letter there are only a few possibilities.
1) The current government has not shared its negotiating objectives as they themselves do not have a plan nor agreed on those objectives themselves as yet.
2) That Sir Ivan is lying in his letter to his team to cause a stir, as a very pro Euro figure he might be trying to rile up things against Brexit.
3) The PM has a plan, but has not told Sir Ivan this plan as she wants to wait for “the right time” such as when article 50 is triggered later in March.
4) The PM wanted Sir Ivan to leave due to the leaked publication previous causing embarrassment to the Government so deliberately did not share information hoping to force him to resign.
From my perspective, all of the above are possible explanations as to the current situation surrounding his early resignation and letter, none of these however, fill me with much confidence regarding our negotiating situation for Brexit. Typical phrases I have heard since this announcement are “We’re doomed!” to “We know what the objectives are, we want free trade but no free movement” which of course is impossible with how the EU works, but some feel this is the ideal end point from which to start.
Alas for most of us, as per normal only time will tell the truth and how we will end up paying for it.