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New UK Permanent Representative to the EU appointed

Senior diplomat and former UK ambassador to Russia, Sir Tim Barrow, has been appointed the UK’s new ambassador to the EU, replacing Sir Ivan Rogers, who resigned from his position on Tuesday, European and US media report.

Downing Street describes the former ambassador to Moscow, who will now play a key role in the UK’s Brexit talks, as a “seasoned and tough negotiator”, who has had experience of securing the UK’s objectives in Brussels, The Guardian notes. Sir Tim Barrow will bring his “trademark energy and creativity to this job” while working alongside a number of other senior officials and ministers to “make a success of Brexit.”

Tim Barrow’s appointment by UK Prime Minister Theresa May was done quickly, The Guardian says, to calm tensions surrounding Sir Ivan’s abrupt resignation from the role, and avoiding to appoint a wholehearted Brexiter, was a move aimed at reassuring those in the civil service, who feared the role would be politicised.

According to Il Sole 24 Ore’s Leonardo Maisano, the resignation of Sir Ivan Rogers indeed reflects a political crisis, that is much deeper than the loss of one top diplomat, as it highlights a conflict between politicians and civil servants over Brexit. The appointment of Sir Tim Barrow attenuates the polemic, since he is not a europhobe, but does not resolve the questions raised by the Rogers affair. The resignation of Sir Ivan is highly symbolic and sounds like rebellion, Ruth Berschens further claims in Handelsbatt.

Several media outlets such as Le Figaro, FAZ and the WSJE quote parts of Rogers’ extensive resignation letter. “We do not yet know what the government will set as negotiating objectives for the UK’s relationship with the EU after exit,” he said. Rogers’ long e-mail appears to be a very critical document on the strategy of British Prime Minister May’s government, Le Figaro notes, as he mentions “unfounded arguments” and “confused thinking.”

On Wednesday, the European Commission expressed its regret over his resignation, with European Commission Spokesperson Natasha Bertaud saying at a press conference: “We regret the loss of a professional, well-informed diplomat, though not always an easy interlocutor, who always defended the interests of his government,” several media outlets such as, the Irish Examiner, L’Echo and report.
Theresa May is preparing to deliver a speech later this month, in which she will outline her “vision for Britain outside of the EU,” with a focus on the economy and immigration, the front page of The Daily Telegraph reports. Ms May will say that she is prepared to take Britain out of the single market, if the UK is not given full control of its borders, with both UK Secretary of State for Leaving the European Union, David Davis and UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson having significant input into the speech, according to sources. While she intends to make it clear that the government would like to keep the UK in the single market, Ms May will not be afraid of taking the country out if the EU resists demands for border controls.

In an interview with National Public Radio, Kimmo Kiljunen, a former member of the European Convention, that drafted a constitution for the EU, described as being one of the architects of the EU, discusses the complicated process of negotiating the agreements and describes how article 50 came into being, following concerns from several countries, that the EU was creating a United States of Europe. The EU needed to show that individual countries were not going to lose sovereignty to the EU, he says.

In an interview with NRC Next, John Kerr, the author of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, further notes, that Article 50 was intended for extreme cases. “I never thought the UK would make use of my article 50,” Mr Kerr says. He agrees that the exit certificate can be established within eighteen months, but the EU and the UK need to decide on future common interests as well, such as defence and security cooperation. “It is very uncertain, economic common sense will win from political interests,” Mr Kerr notes.

As to Maltese Prime Minister Muscat, who said that the Member States appear to be united as regards the strategy, that the EU will follow on the Brexit issue, Maltese, Greek and Romanian media report. “I spoke to and visited basically all other 26 EU Member States and there is a convergence on the attitude toward Brexit. I have never seen such a convergence within the European family”, Mr Muscat commented.

In other institutional stories, European Parliament President Martin Schulz explains in an interview with La Stampa and Süddeutsche Zeitung, that the European project is in danger because most governments have not explained why Member States have transferred more and more powers to Brussels. There is a new generation of Europeans who have been misled by their governments into thinking European integration had been forced upon them. Instead of quitting the euro, people should try to remedy the deficit of a political union. Mr Schulz further denies that a small circle of people, including EC President Juncker, has had excessive influence in the EU, while still pleading for a stronger, institutionalised role for the European Parliament. A few media outlets continue to report on the challenges the EU will face in 2017, including rising populism.




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