LONDON (AP) — A senior British diplomat who warned that negotiating a European Union exit could take 10 years has quit the civil service, days after stepping down as the U.K.’s envoy to the bloc, the government said Saturday.
Ivan Rogers unexpectedly resigned as Britain’s permanent representative in Brussels on Tuesday, months before divorce talks are due to start, fueling opposition claims that the government’s plans for Britain’s EU exit are in disarray.
Rogers came under pressure following last month’s leak of his suggestion that it could take up to a decade to strike a new trade deal. Politicians who support Brexit called him overly negative.
Tim Barrow, a former U.K. ambassador to Russia, has been appointed to replace him.
Britain’s Foreign Office said Rogers had not sought a new post, “and has therefore resigned from the civil service with immediate effect.”
Prime Minister Theresa May says she will invoke Article 50 of the EU’s key treaty, triggering two years of EU exit talks, by March 31.
May has refused to reveal details of Britain’s goals or negotiating strategy, saying that would weaken its hand.
Hard-core Brexiteers in May’s Conservative government want to quit the EU’s single market in goods and services, gaining the freedom to strike trade deals elsewhere — and to end free movement of people from the EU to Britain.
But other Cabinet ministers fear leaving the single market would spell disaster for British businesses.
Andrew Cook, chairman of a firm that makes components for the rail, energy and defense industries, said single-market membership was “critical” to his business and many others.