Monday 1 May 2017

Barrow is no 'patsy' - he dealt with Vladimir Putin

Boris Johnson, UK foreign secretary (C) speaks to Sir Tim Barrow (R) during a Security Council Meeting on the situation in Syria at the United Nations in New York. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Boris Johnson, UK foreign secretary (C) speaks to Sir Tim Barrow (R) during a Security Council Meeting on the situation in Syria at the United Nations in New York. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

Dubbed a "seasoned and tough negotiator" by Downing Street, Tim Barrow - the UK's new man in Brussels - is a veteran diplomat with 30 years' foreign service experience.

The former British ambassador to Russia, who had to deal with Vladimir Putin during testing times, - takes up the post vacated by Ivan Rogers, who left in frustration claiming the UK government had no plan for Brexit talks and that Whitehall is no match for the negotiating experience of the European Commission.

That Prime Minister Theresa May announced a replacement so quickly signals her desire to plug the void left by Mr Rogers' shock departure and dampen mounting speculation that Number 10 is struggling.

Ms May had been under pressure to appoint a Brexiteer to the role - potentially even going outside the civil service to do so. But she resisted those calls, opting instead for someone whose Brexit views are less well known.

In the Foreign and Commonwealth Office since 1986, Mr Barrow's EU experience includes having served as first secretary at Britain's embassy in Brussels, and as representative to the political and security committee of the European Union, but is not known to have taken a strong public position on Brexit.

His selection could disappoint those Brexit campaigners who would like no doubt to have seen a known Eurosceptic in the post.

That Ms May faced down those calls may give some solace to those in Ireland potentially concerned that had a tough pro-exit figure been appointed, the chances of a so-called 'hard Brexit' may have been heightened.

What influence he has on the negotiations remains to be seen though. Mr Barrow's job is primarily to do his government's bidding - whatever form that takes - while listening and reporting back to London on the priorities of the commission, European Parliament and the remaining 27 member states..

A former boss said he wouldn't be a government "patsy", however. If that is indeed true, he may find himself in a similar position to his predecessor - as the bearer of views that Ms May and her cabinet may find uncomfortable.

Irish Independent

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