UK's top EU diplomat resigns ahead of crucial Brexit talks

London, Jan 3 (PTI) Britain's ambassador to the European Union Sir Ivan Rogers, who courted recently controversy by

saying that a UK-EU trade deal might take 10 years to finalise, today unexpectedly resigned from the post weeks

before crucial Brexit negotiations with the economic bloc.


The senior diplomat had been expected to lead the UK's Brexit negotiations with the 28-member EU but was in the eye

of a storm following the leak of an internal memo in which he claimed leaving the EU could take up to a decade.


The UK Foreign Office confirmed the resignation today but  declined to give any reasons behind the move at this stage.


Labour MP Hilary Benn, who chairs the UK Parliament's Brexit Select Committee, said the resignation had come at a

"crucial" time. "It couldn't be a more difficult time to organise a handover," he said. 


Rogers occupied the post of the United Kingdom Permanent Representation to the European Union (UKRep), which represents

the UK in negotiations that take place in the EU.


UKRep is one of the busiest posts, with a team sourced from over 20 UK government departments working to ensure that

UK policies are explained to other EU member states, the European Commission and members of the European Parliament.


Rogers, a veteran civil servant, was due to leave his post in November 2017 but is stepping down early.


Last month, the BBC revealed he had privately told ministers a UK-EU trade deal might take 10 years to finalise. 


The leak of the private memo is believed to have caused him a lot of embarrassment and strained relations with Downing

Street.


Prime Minister Theresa May has announced her intention to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to trigger official

talks for Britain's exit from the EU by the end of March.


Rogers was expected to play a central role in those deliberations. However, now the government will need to put a

replacement in place.


Leave EU, a pro-Brexit campaign group, tweeted: "Pessimist Rogers - who warned Brexit would take 10 years - is

to leave his post as UK Ambassador to the EU. Good - time for some optimism!"


However, Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform think tank, warned that Rogers' departure

"makes a good deal on Brexit less likely". 


PTI