The Prime Minister of Norway has suggested Britain lacks the negotiating experience that will be critical to the country securing a good Brexit deal.
Erna Solberg said the UK’s ability to respond speedily during discussions is “limited” because it had been so long since the nation had represented itself in any talks.
The comment comes as Westminster continues to reel from the resignation of the UK’s ambassador to the EU, Sir Ivan Rogers, which saw him criticise what he described as “muddled thinking” over the Government’s approach to Brexit.
The Norwegian PM said she hoped Britain would be able to negotiate an agreement that keeps the country close to the EU, but explained that it would be difficult.
Speaking at a meeting of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) in southern Germany, she said: “And we do feel that sometimes when we are discussing with Britain, that their speed is limited by the fact that it is such a long time since they have negotiated [alone].
She added: “I fear a very hard Brexit, but I hope we will find a better solution.”
Britain joined the bloc in 1973, since when the EU’s Commission in Brussels has handled trade and other negotiations on behalf of the UK along with other member states.
Ex-minister Oliver Letwin admitted back in July that the country had no trade negotiators, with all British trade officials employed by the EU on the continent.
Meanwhile, there has been a rush to staff David Davis’s Brexit department which will head the negotiations with the EU.
Ms Solberg’s comments come just days after Sir Ivan quit, while urging his diplomatic colleagues to call out “muddled thinking” on Brexit and to “speak truth to power”.
In his letter he also highlighted that “serious multilateral negotiating experience is in short supply in Whitehall, and that is not the case in the (European) Commission or in the (European) Council”.
Earlier today a Tory peer and former Downing Street trade envoy, Lord Marland, also warned that the UK does not have the skills to negotiate a good Brexit deal.
Theresa May, expected to trigger Article 50 in March launching official Brexit talks, faces a backlash from Tories and civil servants over the Government’s handling of the situation.
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