May set to draw Brexit ‘red lines’

Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to outline the UK’s ‘red lines’ in Brexit negotiations following criticism from Britain’s outgoing EU ambassador that the government lacks a coherent strategy.

UK brexit flag
Following comments from Britain’s departing European Union (EU) ambassador that the government lacks a coherent strategy for Brexit, Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to outline the country’s negotiating ‘red lines’ for the first time in a speech later this month.Sources suggested that Mrs May would make it clear that, unless the other 27 EU nations agreed to restrict the free movement of people into the UK, the nation would pull out of the single market.Mrs May, who has consistently refused to spell out her position on Brexit until formal negotiations begin, has been stung by criticism from Sir Ivan Rogers, who abruptly quit as the UK’s permanent representative to the EU, that the government’s Brexit strategy had the hallmarks of “ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking”.The government subsequently appointed senior diplomat Sir Tim Barrow, the former ambassador in Moscow, to replace Sir Ivan. Downing Street described him as a “seasoned and tough negotiator”.

Making Brexit a success

The row over Sir Ivan’s resignation has apparently convinced Mrs May that she must finally outline the nation’s Brexit strategy. She has reportedly been working on a speech in collaboration with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis.Mr Johnson commented, “Tim Barrow has been invaluable since I joined the Foreign Office in July, and I want to personally thank him for his relentless energy, wise counsel and steadfast commitment. He is just the man to get the best deal for the UK and will lead UKRep [United Kingdom Permanent Representation to the European Union] with the same skill and leadership he has shown throughout his career. I wish him all the best.”Sir Tim said he was “honoured” to be offered the job, and a Downing Street spokesman said, “We are delighted that Tim Barrow is taking up this role. A seasoned and tough negotiator, with extensive experience of securing UK objectives in Brussels, he will bring his trademark energy and creativity to this job – working alongside other senior officials and ministers to make a success of Brexit.”Tom Fletcher, a former diplomat and foreign-policy adviser to three UK prime ministers, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, “It’s the toughest negotiation in our lifetimes, and I think he is up to it. I have seen him in Brussels. He knows the corridors, he knows the characters.“But actually more importantly, I saw him in Moscow, where he was incredibly resilient as ambassador there, dealing with Putin in a very testing time in our relationship, and Tim had a reputation of being bulletproof out there.”'A gigantic enterprise’However, Sir Robert Cooper, a former UK diplomat and European Commission official, said that the UK’s team in Brussels currently lacked direction. “I think, at the moment, there is a policy vacuum. It’s not surprising. This is a gigantic enterprise that’s been taken on and needs a lot of thought,” he said.“I think, at the moment, probably the atmosphere is difficult because people don’t know where they are going. You need to have a sense of direction.”John Pienaar, BBC deputy political editor, commented, “The resignation of Sir Ivan Rogers has revealed more than the difficulty and complexity of Britain’s EU divorce. It has highlighted wider strains in Whitehall between some mandarins and some ministers, up to and including Theresa May.“Mandarins and ambassadors perennially advise more junior mandarins on the importance of speaking truth to power. On this occasion, Sir Ivan’s leaked farewell memo can fairly be read as a protest and a warning. Concern is growing among some high-ranking officials that ministers don’t understand or won’t admit the scale of the task they’re facing.”In the Winter 2016/17 issue of Relocate magazine, David Sapsted looks at some of the key international locations bidding for a piece of the post-Brexit action, and canvasses the views of business leaders and politicians.

 

Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online Directory  Get access to our free Global Mobility Toolkit