×

Brexit bedlam? Key negotiator’s resignation fuels fears that UK is not ready to quit Europe

British Prime Minister Theresa May listens to journalists questions during a press conference.
Samuel Kubani | AFP | Getty Images
British Prime Minister Theresa May listens to journalists questions during a press conference.

The process for the U.K. to leave the European Union (EU) is due to begin in March, but as the deadline approaches it is less clear how the negotiations will unfold.

However, the path towards Brexit became a lot less clear Tuesday with the U.K. ambassador to the EU, Ivan Rogers, resigning, fuelling concerns that the U.K. government is not ready to quit Europe.

In its resignation letter, Rogers warned that the U.K. lacked negotiating expertise when compared to EU officials and asked for a quick appointment of the British negotiating team.

"Serious multilateral negotiating experience is in short supply in Whitehall, and that is not the case in the Commission or in the Council," the former ambassador wrote.

"Senior ministers, who will decide on our positions, issue by issue, also need from you detailed, unvarnished - even where this is uncomfortable - and nuanced understanding of the views, interests and incentives of the other 27," Sir Ivan Rogers added.

Downing Street said in a statement on Tuesday that "Sir Ivan has taken this decision now to enable a successor to be appointed before the UK invokes Article 50 by the end of March." However, the former ambassador – considered one of the most experience U.K. officials, has reportedly had conflicting views with the national government.

Last December, Sir Ivan Rogers warned the U.K. government that it could take up to 10 years to conclude a trade deal with the EU, the BBC reported. At the time, he also mentioned that even after a trade deal is finalized, national parliaments across the EU could reject the agreement.

"It seems the U.K. ambassador to EU left over government reluctance to hear what EU really think about Brexit," Robin Bew, managing director at the Economist Intelligence Unit said on Twitter on Wednesday.

Rogers apologized for fuelling Brexit uncertainty and recognized that the ongoing political concerns go beyond the U.K.'s objectives for Brexit.

"We do not yet know what the Government will set as negotiating objectives for the UK's relationship with the EU after exit. There is much we will not know until later this year about the political shape of the EU itself, and who the political protagonists in any negotiation with the UK will be," he highlighted in his resignation letter.

The Netherlands, France, Germany and Italy – all core EU members – will have elections for their heads of state amid a growing anti-EU sentiment.

Vincenzo Scarpetta, senior policy analyst at the Open Europe think tank, told CNBC on Wednesday that the big decisions should come from the newly elected leaders, which could delay progress on Brexit talks.

"This is a big political negotiation so for the big political decisions you need the leaders, the heads of state and government at the highest level," he said.

"All options are virtually on the table so everything and nothing is possible," he added.

The U.K. government has pledged to publish a Brexit outline before starting negotiations in March.

But such plan should not include many details.

"I would not expect a very, very detailed plan because we are talking about very complex negotiations," Scarpetta said.