For Eurosceptic Conservative MPs, David Cameron could barely have made a more provocative choice.
The Prime Minister has chosen Ivan Rogers – the former chief adviser to their pro-EU hate figure, Kenneth Clarke – to be the UK’s next ambassador to the EU in Brussels, with the task of renegotiating Britain’s place within the organisation.
Mr Rogers, currently the Prime Minister’s adviser on Europe, is expected to see his appointment confirmed within weeks. But some Tories will be alarmed by his apparently Europhile background – he has also served as chief of staff to the former vice-president of the European Commission, Lord Brittan.
His role will be highly significant as he will lead efforts to claw back powers to Britain ahead of a 2017 referendum promised by Mr Cameron on EU membership. Tory Eurosceptics said the job was so critical to the national interest that the appointment should be subject to veto by MPs, as he is an unelected official.
They are calling for him to be summoned before a parliamentary committee before his promotion is confirmed, but their demands are being strongly resisted by Downing Street.
Bill Cash, the chairman of European Scrutiny Committee, said the holder of the post “holds the key to the whole of the legislative negotiations that take place” and should appear before MPs.
He told The Independent: “They have to be held accountable and the policies they are adopting have to be held accountable.”
His fellow Eurosceptic, Douglas Carswell, also complained that MPs would not get the opportunity to cross-examine Mr Rogers over his views.
He said: “Despite all that ‘new-politics-accountable-government’ blah blah we heard so much about before the last election, those we elect will not have the chance to ask Mr Rogers before he is handed the role. Government accountability to Parliament, it seems to me, is a fiction.”
The Government argues that the post of UK Permanent Representative to the EU should not be subject to veto as the incumbent pursues policies which are fixed by ministers who are answerable to MPs. One MP said last night: “So long as he’s an EU reformist then it’s good news. We need someone with focus and the will to achieve change on several fronts – one or two reforms are not enough.”
The post has become vacant after Sir Jon Cunliffe announced he was stepping down to become the deputy governor of the Bank of England.
Whitehall sources said Mr Rogers had impressed the Prime Minister with his work preparing the ground for the G8 summit at Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, in June.
He is also said to have helped improve relations between Britain and Germany, which could prove crucial in negotiations over the EU’s future.
He was appointed Mr Cameron’s adviser on Europe and global issues in 2011, a position formerly held by Sir Jon. His mixture of Government and City experience will be important as British ministers attempt to wrest powers back to Britain and to resist pressure for tighter regulation of financial institutions.