LONDON – Two former aides of prime minister Theresa May, who both resigned after being blamed for the Conservative campaign leading to a disastrous general election result for the party, had a key role in the British ambassador to the European Union quitting unexpectedly in January this year.
That is according to a damning new report by The Times that said Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy “forced out or sidelined supposedly independent civil servants – some after a period of alleged bullying” and that included one of the most important people involved with Brexit negotiations – Sir Ivan Rogers.
In fact, although Sir Ivan, who was charged with the task of helping prepare for triggering Article 50 – the beginning of the two-year period until Britain leaves the EU, was well-respected for his service as a diplomat, and his experience in the Treasury, was allegedly not allowed to speak or meet May one-on-one by Timothy.
Here are the key excerpts from the report (emphasis ours):
The Times has been told that at least one senior official intimately involved in the Brexit negotiations was at one stage prevented from seeing the prime minister by Mr Timothy. Sir Ivan Rogers, who was then Britain’s permanent representative to the EU, tried to alert Mrs May to what he believed were flaws in the government’s understanding of Brussels.
“He was told that he couldn’t write submissions to the prime minister and that everything had to go through the chief of staff,” one insider said.
“He tried to get one-to-one meetings with Mrs May and was rebuffed. Everything that the prime minister saw or heard was controlled by Nick.”
Senior sources said no attempt was made by Sir Jeremy to ensure Sir Ivan got access to Mrs May. Believing he had been frozen out, Sir Ivan quit. A former senior Whitehall figure said that had disastrous consequences for the initial stages of Brexit preparations.
“Losing Ivan Rogers at that point was really bad just as we were preparing our position on Article 50,” they said. “He was ex-Treasury and knew about budgets and financial services and how Brussels works. They just lost that. You’ve ended up with yes men and they’re bloody useless to everybody.”
In January this year, Sir Ivan unexpectedly quit and then launched a thinly veiled attack on the government’s approach to Brexit talks in his resignation letter.
In a 1,400-word word resignation letter, published in full by The Telegraph, Rogers called on former colleagues to challenge “muddled thinking,” and “ill-founded arguments,” and called for them to “speak truth to power.” He adds that “serious multilateral negotiating experience is in short supply in Whitehall.”
After the general election on June 8, Katie Perrior, who was director of communications at Downing Street between July 2016 and April 2017, wrote an article for The Times newspaper that heavily criticised Hill and Timothy for the way the campaign was run, which produced the result in the general election.
They later resigned and Gavin Barwell, the former Conservative MP who lost his seat in London’s most marginal constituency (Croydon Central), took over as May’s chief of staff.