The next ambassador to the EU will need rose-tinted spectacles

By resigning, Sir Ivan Rogers has escaped a miserable job. 

NS

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If you’re the kind of Remoaner kept up at night by the spectre of crashing out of the single market, thoughts of Sir Ivan Rogers should have gently lulled you back to sleep.

Not only was the UK’s ambassador to the EU vastly experienced, with three Prime Ministers under his belt, but he played a part in the earlier EU negotiations before the referendum, and was widely respected across the political divide. 

Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, was deeply impressed when he met him this autumn during his dash around the corridors of power. George Osborne, the former Tory Chancellor, described him him “a perceptive, pragmatic and patriotic public servant”. Nick Clegg, the former Liberal Democrat leader, calls him “punctiliously objective”. 

So the news that Rogers has resigned has not only set Westminster a-speculating, but sets an ominous tone for 2017. 

Rogers was supposed to stand down in November 2017. But just before Christmas, it was reported he had privately warned the government that a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU could take 10 years.

A round of briefing ensued, with No. 10 shooting down the claim. 

The official reason for Rogers’ resignation is to avoid quitting in the middle of the Article 50 process. A government spokesman said: "Sir Ivan has taken this decision now to enable a successor to be appointed before the UK invokes Article 50 by the end of March."

But the resignation also follows a pattern of attacks on anyone deemed to be a Brexit Eeyore. Just like central bankers, and judges, civil servants must at times play a role in Brexit negotiations and, at times, deliver bad news. 

On news of his resignation, Leave.EU, the unofficial Brexit campaign, tweeted: “Good – time for some optimism!” Ukip rabble rouser and Donald Trump fan Nigel Farage said he welcomed the resignation. 

This relentless demand for good cheer is hardly an enticing job advertisement, especially when the Rogers of this world can earn far more, work less and speak more frankly in the anonymous enclaves of the private sector. 

As one Nick Macpherson, possibly the former permanent secretary to the Treasury, tweeted: “Can't understand wilful and total destruction of EU expertise.”

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.