The European Commission said on Wednesday it regretted that Britain’s ambassador to the EU Ivan Rogers had resigned, just as London prepared to launch fraught Brexit divorce negotiations.
“We regret the loss of a very professional, very knowledgeable while not always easy interlocutor and diplomat, who always loyally defended the interests of his government,” said Natasha Bertaud, a spokeswoman for the Commission, the EU’s executive arm.
Asked whether the departure of Rogers less than three months before formal Brexit talks are due to start would negatively impact the process, Bertaud said: “Negotiations have not yet started and as you know we are still waiting for the triggering to start those negotiations.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May has promised to trigger Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty — the formal divorce clause — by the end of March.
The European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, meanwhile paid tribute to the veteran British diplomat for his expertise.
“Best wishes to Sir Ivan Rogers, a much respected UK civil servant in Brussels — who knew what he was talking about,” Verhofstadt tweeted.
There was no immediate reaction from the European Council, which groups the 28 EU leaders under EU President Donald Tusk.
Rogers surprised London and Brussels on Tuesday when he announced he was stepping down early, accusing some in the government of “muddle-headed thinking” about Brexit and how difficult it will be to negotiate.
He also exposed the British government’s apparent lack of a plan, saying that “we do not yet know what the government will set as negotiating objectives for the UK’s relationship with the EU after exit.