Britain names new EU envoy

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Tim Barrow will be the UK’s new ambassador to the EU to replace Ivan Rogers, the Foreign Office confirmed Wednesday.

Barrow is a career diplomat who started at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1986 and was the UK’s ambassador to Moscow from 2011 to 2015. In March 2016 he became political director at the Foreign Office.

He has Brussels experience after serving as first secretary at the UK’s permanent representation to the EU and as representative to the EU Political and Security Committee.

The appointment is likely to calm fears in Whitehall that traditional diplomatic expertise was being overlooked but risks criticism from Euroskeptics who favored a more political, pro-Brexit appointment.

There had been calls from within the Conservative Party for Theresa May to appoint a hard Brexiteer to the role, even from outside the civil service. But she has ignored those pleas, with Barrow described as “fearless” and “not a government patsy” by his former boss in Moscow, Charles Crawford, on LBC radio.

“He’ll be unflinching in his thoughts on the subject but once you’ve agreed a consensus he’ll say fine, let’s get after that, and he’ll go for it,” Crawford said.

A source at the UK’s permanent representation to the EU who worked with Barrow during his time in Brussels told POLITICO he was a “big personality” with a “very sharp mind.” The source added that he was “very FCO” (Foreign and Commonwealth Office).

Rogers’ resignation on Tuesday came as a surprise. In his resignation note, which was obtained by the BBC, Rogers told colleagues: “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.”

His decision appeared to catch British officials in Brussels and London by surprise and news leaked out barely an hour after the prime minister’s team had briefed the press on the day’s news without a mention of the impending resignation.

It took two hours before an official statement confirming the departure was released.

Rogers had become a whipping boy for the Euroskeptic press after the leak of a memo from him, warning Number 10 that a trade deal with the EU could take as much as 10 years.

Leading Brexiteers were quick to welcome his decision to quit. UKIP’s Nigel Farage suggested that many other pro-EU civil servants should go the same way. “The Foreign Office needs a complete clear out,” he said on Twitter. After Barrow’s appointment, Farage was back on social media, writing: “Good to see that the government have replaced a knighted career diplomat with… a knighted career diplomat.”

Hours before Barrow’s appointment, May and her team were accused of not doing enough to defend the impartiality of senior envoys by the head of a trade union for civil servants.

Dave Penman, the general secretary of the FDA, which represents permanent secretaries, said May was “sitting back” instead of coming to the defense of civil servants such as Rogers, allowing others to launch attacks on the profession, the Guardian reported.

“The prime minister herself has publicly criticized civil servants, trivialized those who suggest [the civil service is] being under-resourced and now sits back as key officials are pilloried by a succession of former ministers,” Penman said.

“If the civil service is to deliver a successful Brexit negotiation the recipe for that success is unlikely to be [to] starve it of resources, lack clarity of objective and surround yourself with yes men and women who won’t speak truth unto power.”