Brexit: British PM Theresa May moves quickly to fill EU ambassador role

Brussels veteran Sir Tim Barrow to take up key post in wake of resignation of Sir Ivan Rogers

Sir Tim Barrow's appointment welcomed by UK government negotiators, but criticised by eurosceptics as yet 'another Knighted career diplomat' | Photo credit: PA Images

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

05 Jan 2017

Sir Tim Barrow has been appointed the UK’s new permanent representative to the European Union and will take up the role next week.

Barrow is a career diplomat of 30 years who was the ambassador to Russia and head of the British foreign service’s Russia section, as well as previously serving in two senior positions in Brussels.

He replaces Sir Ivan Rogers who stepped down earlier this week and who had been critical about the UK government’s plans for exiting the EU.

Senior Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith had accused Rogers of leaking stories against ministers and claimed he had lost the trust of Conservative politicians.


Barrow’s appointment came as British premier Theresa May prepares to deliver a major speech on Brexit this month when she will restate that control of the UK’s borders will be a red line for the British government.

Currently the Foreign Office’s Political Director, Barrow worked at the UK Representation to the EU (UKRep) as UK Representative to the Political and Security Committee of the EU from 2008-11. His earlier EU experience includes spells as an Assistant Director in the Europe Directorate and a First Secretary in UKRep.

On his appointment, Barrow said, “I am honoured to be appointed as the UK’s Permanent Representative to the EU at this crucial time. I look forward to joining the strong leadership team at the Department for Exiting the EU and working with them and the talented staff at UKRep to ensure we get the right outcome for the United Kingdom as we leave the EU.”

On Thursday, a Downing Street spokesperson said, “We are delighted that Tim Barrow is taking up this role. A seasoned and tough negotiator, with extensive experience of securing UK objectives in Brussels, he will bring his trademark energy and creativity to this job - working alongside other senior officials and Ministers to make a success of Brexit.”

Welcoming his appointment David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, said, "UKRep will have a crucial role to play in the negotiation over the UK's exit from the EU, and Sir Tim Barrow will add to the already extensive experience it brings.

"His knowledge of Brussels means he will be able to hit the ground running at a vital time, and steer UKRep throughout the negotiation period. I am confident that with his help, the UK will be able to forge a new relationship with the EU that works to the mutual benefit of both sides."

Further comment came from UK foreign minister Boris Johnson who said, “Tim Barrow has been invaluable since I joined the Foreign Office in July and I want to personally thank him for his relentless energy, wise counsel and steadfast commitment. He is just the man to get the best deal for the UK and will lead UKRep with the same skill and leadership he has shown throughout his career. I wish him all the best.”

British shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, welcomed the quick appointment of an experienced figure with a distinguished record, insisting there could not be a vacuum in the role. But he said he would still push for an urgent statement in parliament because of the questions thrown up by Rogers’s departure, including the official’s claim that the government did not have a negotiating strategy.

The UK-based website Civil Service World, however, says that some Brexit campaigners are critical about the choice of another long serving diplomat to such a crucial post.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage tweeted, “Good to see that the government have replaced a knighted career diplomat with.... a knighted career diplomat.”

UKIP Brexit spokesman, Gerard Batten told this website, “This appointment is a disappointment because the last thing we need is another career diplomat wearing a Brussels jersey.

“The Foreign Office needs a complete and revolutionary shakeup for it must begin to reflect the stated desire of the British people to leave the  need to remove career diplomats who have been so spectacularly unsuccessful in protecting British interests for the last 44 years. In their place, we need committed and sincere Brexiteers, people who actually want Britain to leave the EU and are prepared to make it happen. We also need more people like this in [the UK] Government who will ensure the same.”

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