LONDON — Sir Ivan Rogers was a realist, not a pessimist, and was simply doing his job by warning that the Brexit process could take up to a decade.
That is according to Anand Menon, director at independent research organisation UK In A Changing Europe, who spoke to Business Insider after the shock resignation of Rogers as British ambassador to the EU on Tuesday.
In his resignation letter, Rogers appeared to suggest that his growing frustration with the government’s approach to Brexit negotiation played at least some part in his decision to leave the position before exit talks get underway at the end of March.
He encouraged fellow civil servants to “speak truth to those in power” by challenging “ill-founded arguments” and “muddled thinking,” in what appeared to be a thinly-veiled swipe at Theresa May and the Brexit ministers.
Rogers, who was appointed the UK Permanent Representative to the European Union by David Cameron in 2013, became a target for the right-wing press and pro-Leave Tory MPs for claiming a UK-EU free trade deal could take 10 years to negotiate and put into effect.
Menon, who is also a Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs at Kings College, told Business Insider on Wednesday morning that Rogers was right in his warning, despite the protestations of Brexiteers in the Commons.
“It’s the job of a civil servant to point out what the potential risks are in any course of action,” he said.
“He was just doing his job. He was reported as saying the process could take 10 years. Well, I think that’s probably quite accurate. Signing a trade deal with the European Union is going to take a lot of time, simply due to the nature of politics. There will be vested interests involved, everybody will be trying to get the best deal for their own narrow set of interests, and that tends to take time.”
“I have no criticisms of him in that score. He just showed the type of perspective civil servants should be showing.”
He added that the experienced diplomat was clearly becoming more unhappy in his role as Article 50 talks between Britain and European leaders approached. “It seems to me that he was just feeling increasingly uncomfortable in his role. The role he was given when appointed by David Cameron is a very different role to the one he was being asked to do now [under Theresa May]. He was clearly growing impatient.”
Menon was keen to stress, however, that although Rogers’ departure came at a bad time for Theresa May, what it could mean for the government’s negotiating team and Brexit process as a whole is being blown out of proportion.
“Rogers is someone with a lot of contacts in Brussels, but we’ve got quite a big diplomatic service and he’s not irreplaceable. If he was getting genuinely frustrated with what the government was doing and how it was doing it then it might be better for all that he steps down.”
He added: “I think there’s been a slightly hysterical reaction to him going, to be honest.”
On whether the rush to find a successor will delay the prime minister in invoking Article 50, Menon said: “No, I don’t think so. May has set herself a deadline and I don’t think she has any intention of missing it. I think the signal that would send out would be very negative. She is trying to present herself as being an organised, controlled prime minister and missing your own deadline would undermine that significantly.”
Menon and his colleagues at UK In A Changing Europe spend time observing the organs of government, particularly Whitehall, where May could choose to find Rogers’ replacement. The civil service has suffered from continual downsizing over recent years, and according to recent studies is struggling to manage the sheer workload of Brexit.
Menon acknowledges that Whitehall has a “serious issue when it comes to resources” but predicted that the prime minister shouldn’t encounter many problems in finding a replacement before Article 50 talks begin.
“A few names are being banded about at the moment. Some people are saying a traditional appointment like a senior civil servant. Alex Ellis is being touted as a possibility. It might be that Theresa May goes completely leftfield and decides not to take on a career civil servant or career diplomat. Ultimately, It’s up to her. There are senior civil servants working on the Brexit process at home, so I don’t think she’ll struggle to find somebody to work on it in Brussels.”
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There is “credible” evidence that gangs of men sexually assaulted women at a New Year’s Eve celebration in Bangalore, Indian police said Wednesday, adding they have filed a criminal case over the incident.
Praveen Sood, the police commissioner of Bangalore city, said an inquiry had been set up into allegations women attending the Saturday night celebrations were chased, groped, molested and robbed.
The announcement followed a public outcry over comments by a local minister blaming the attacks in the southern city — an IT hub considered relatively safe for women — on “western dress”.
Indian police have set up an inquiry into allegations that women in Bangalore were molested after viewing footage from CCTV cameras ©STR (AFP/File)
“We did not waste any time,” Sood told reporters, saying police had registered a criminal case without waiting for a complainant.
“The police teams are working, we are sure we will catch the culprits.”
Additional police commissioner Hemant Nimbalkar told AFP the case had been filed against unnamed persons for sexual harassment, illegal confinement and forcefully attempting to disrobe.
Police officers have been sifting through footage from at least 45 CCTV cameras installed in the city centre where hundreds of revellers had gathered to celebrate the new year.
India has been shamed in the past by shocking levels of sexual assault against women, notably in December 2012 when a student was gang-raped on a bus in New Delhi and later died of her injuries.
Indians took to social media to condemn the latest incident, dubbed “night of horror”.
” only shows how casual it is to molest women” tweeted Falguni Vasavada-Oza.
“How easy it is to grope! How vulnerable is safety! How deep is (d) hierarchy.”
Video footage circulated on social media showed women screaming for help.
The attacks in Bangalore have drawn comparison with last year’s mass sexual assaults at New Year’s celebrations in the German city of Cologne, where police were also accused of losing control.
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WASHINGTON In three words of a tweet this week, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump vowed North Korea would never test an intercontinental ballistic missile.
“It won’t happen!” Trump wrote after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said on Sunday his nuclear-capable country was close to testing an ICBM of a kind that could someday hit the United States.
Preventing such a test is far easier said than done, and Trump gave no indication of how he might roll back North Korea’s weapons programs after he takes office on Jan. 20, something successive U.S. administrations, both Democratic and Republican, have failed to do.
Former U.S. officials and other experts said the United States essentially had two options when it came to trying to curb North Korea’s fast-expanding nuclear and missile programs – negotiate or take military action.
Neither path offers certain success and the military option is fraught with huge dangers, especially for Japan and South Korea, U.S. allies in close proximity to North Korea.
The Republican president-elect complained in a separate tweet that China, North Korea’s neighbor and only ally, was not helping to contain Pyongyang – despite China’s support for successive rounds of U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang.
While many critics, including within President Barack Obama’s administration, agreed China could press North Korea harder, the State Department said it did not agree with Trump’s assessment that China was not helping.
Experts said Trump’s tough stance toward Beijing on issues from trade to Taiwan could prove counterproductive in securing greater Chinese cooperation.
James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at Washington’s Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, said that with his North Korea tweet, Trump had drawn a red line he could later be judged by, like Obama’s 2012 warning to Syria over the use of chemical weapons.
“This was a foolhardy tweet for Trump to send given the enormous challenges of constraining North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. I think this could be something that comes back to haunt him.”
U.S. officials, who did not want to be identified, said that if ordered, the U.S. military had three options to respond to a North Korean missile test – a pre-emptive strike before it is launched, intercepting the missile in flight, or allowing a launch to take place unhindered.
One official, who did not wish to be named, said there were risks with pre-emptive action, including the possibility of striking the wrong target – or North Korean retaliation against regional allies.
Arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis questioned whether U.S. missile defenses could shoot down a test missile, absent a lucky shot, and said destroying North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs would be a huge and risky undertaking.
Lewis, at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California, said it would require “a large military campaign … over a fairly substantial period of time.”
He noted that North Korea’s main nuclear and missile test sites were on different sides of the country and factories that supplied them were scattered over several provinces.
“There’s a warren of tunnels under the nuclear site. And an ICBM can be launched from anywhere in the country because it’s mobile. You might as well invade the country,” Lewis said.
Republican U.S. Senator Cory Gardner, writing on cnn.com, said he hoped Trump’s administration would impose “secondary sanctions” on firms and entities that help North Korea’s weapons programs, many of which were in China.
‘PERIOD OF SERIOUS SANCTIONS’
While Trump has not detailed his policy approach to North Korea, an adviser to his transition team told Reuters he believed “a period of serious sanctions” had “to be a major part of any discussion on the options available here.”
State Department spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday the United States had not ruled out additional sanctions, but added: “Let’s not get ahead of where we are.”
Victor Cha, who was an aide to former Republican President George W. Bush, said he believed Trump was serious about not letting North Korea have nuclear-capable ICBMs that could threaten the U.S. mainland.
“How to stop this is of course difficult. It’s a combination of diplomacy (to get a freeze), sanctions (Chinese ones and Treasury), moving more military assets to the region for extended deterrence, strike options, and integrated missile defense. That’s what would be on my menu,” he said.
Frank Jannuzi, a former State Department official who heads the Mansfield Foundation Asia dialogue forum, said Trump’s vow could prove as hollow as Obama’s pledge not to tolerate North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
“I worry … that it only emboldens the North, because they see it for what it is: empty talk,” he said. “It lays down a red line. … We don’t seem prepared to back up.”
He said North Korea had long defied U.S. and U.N. sanctions to pursue its nuclear and missile programs, and added: “One hundred and forty characters from Donald Trump aren’t going to change that.”
(Additional reporting by Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney)