Brexit: Former EU ambassador Ivan Rodgers says triggering Article 50 early means UK is 'screwed'

Sir Ivan claims he warned ministers not to invoke proceedings without a clear plan, but said he had been ‘heavily opposed’ by people in London

He claimed the EU has done ‘exactly as you would expect’ by refusing to discuss a future partnership before the terms if withdrawal had been agreed
He claimed the EU has done ‘exactly as you would expect’ by refusing to discuss a future partnership before the terms if withdrawal had been agreed

Theresa May’s early triggering of Article 50 has left the country “screwed” in its negotiations with the EU, according to the UK’s former ambassador to the EU. He also warned that he told the Government not to do it.

Giving evidence to the Commons Treasury Select Committee, Sir Ivan said the period before the UK had triggered the Article was a “moment of key leverage” – but that invoking it without first establishing the sequencing of talks had allowed the 27 EU member states to “dictate the rules of the game”.

Sir Ivan added that he had advised waiting until ministers were sure the negotiating timetable was going to work for the benefit of the UK, before they triggered Article 50 last March.

However, he said that he had been “heavily opposed” by “various people in London”.

He said: “I did say last autumn I would not agree unequivocally to invoke Article 50 unless you know how Article 50 is going to work, because the moment you invoke Article 50, the 27 dictate the rules of the game and they will set up the rules of the game in the way that most suits them.

“My advice as a European negotiator was that that was a moment of key leverage, and if you wanted to avoid being screwed on the negotiations in terms of the sequencing you had to negotiate with the key European leaders and the key people at the top of the institutions, and say ‘I will invoke Article 50, but only under circumstances where I know exactly how it is going to operate.”’

Sir Ivan said that in the event, the EU side had done “exactly as you would expect” and insisted that they were not prepared to discuss the future partnership arrangements, including a free trade deal, until the terms of Britain’s withdrawal had been agreed – including the financial settlement.

“If you were in their shoes that is exactly what you would do. You would think let’s just maximise the pressure on the British side to move on money and squeeze as hard as possible because the debate they really want to have is about the future partnership,” he said.

“So the more pressing that gets to them (the UK) and the more pressing it gets to their private sector to talk about transition, the more likely they are to be more generous with their money.

“Anybody could have told you that is exactly what the 27 would do.”

Sir Ivan Rogers, who resigned in January, told his staff never to be “afraid to speak truth to power” and to “challenge ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking”.

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