Pro-Brexiteers have welcomed it, pointing out that Sir Ivan Rogers is a man whose entire career as a diplomat has been shaped by Brussels groupthink. For Europhiles, still in denial about the result of the June referendum, it’s a devastating blow to Mrs May’s Brexit strategy if, that is, she has one.
Downing Street have replaced Sir Ivan with Sir Tim Barrow, an experienced diplomat whose familiarity with the way in which the EU operates is equal to his but whose adherence to its mindset and methods is less so.
It is far too early to take this Whitehall squabble as a basis for assumptions about hard or soft Brexits. No time, however, should be lost in establishing a dialogue with the aim of ensuring the survival of the the 1923 Common Travel Area (CTA) in Ireland, the North and mainland Britain.
Irish officials have met the EU commissioner twice to assure them that maintaining the CTA would not flout the union’s regulations and would not be harmful to interests of other member states. They were also careful, given Euro-sensitivities, to ask the commission to pass the word on to those other member states that Ireland was not attempting to pre-negotiate a sweet deal with London.
So far, so sensible; conserving the CTA is a vital interest for Ireland, and it will be a major priority for the North. The next step for Ireland should be similar discussions — no sweet deals, of course — with officials in Belfast and London.