Boris Johnson: Diplomats must continue to be frank with ministers

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson
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Boris Johnson has called on British diplomats to continue giving “unvarnished views” as he paid tribute to Sir Ivan Rogers.

The Foreign Secretary said the UK’s departing permanent representative in Brussels had done “an excellent job”, hailing him as “an outstanding public servant”.

Sir Ivan shocked Westminster and Brussels with his resignation last week and used an email to staff to call on them to keep delivering disagreeable messages to the Government.

Mr Johnson, speaking at Foreign Office questions in the Commons, said that Sir Ivan was “an outstanding public servant” who always gave him “very frank advice”.

He said: “One thing I would say is that it’s vital for officials to continue to give their round, unvarnished views of matters, such as the ease of negotiating free trade deals.

“It isn’t necessarily going to be simple, but there’s no reason to think why it can’t be done speedily, and there’s no reason to think why we can’t have fantastic free trade deals, not least with the United States of America.”

Earlier in the debate, Mr Johnson had also praised Sir Ivan’s replacement in Brussels, Sir Tim Barrow. He told MPs: “Sir Ivan did an excellent job and always gave me very good advice.... I think his reasons for stepping down early were persuasive.

“Sir Tim Barrow, as anybody who has worked with him... will know, is an outstanding public servant with long-standing experience of UK representation in Brussels and will do a superb job in the forthcoming talks.”

However, Mr Johnson would not say who Sir Ivan might have been referring to in his resignation email, when he stated: “Contrary to the beliefs of some, free trade does not just happen”.