Former ambassador fears 'fist-fight' in EU trade talks
Negotiations to leave the European Union are likely to descend into "name-calling" and "fist-fighting" before any agreement can be found, the UK's former ambassador to the EU has warned.
Sir Ivan Rogers, who quit in January after telling Prime Minister Theresa May that Brussels diplomats thought it might take 10 years to reach a deal, said there was a "humongous" amount of work to do in what would probably be the country's largest ever negotiation.
Sir Ivan told the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee yesterday that he did not leak his advice to Mrs May, which became public ahead of a key European Council summit in December.
"I never leak, I never have, I never would," said the diplomat. "I can categorically deny that."
Sir Ivan denied that he had ever said that he personally believed a post-Brexit trade deal would take 10 years. But he said his private memo detailed the "street wisdom among the senior players" in Brussels and EU capitals, who thought trade negotiations would not start until late 2017 at the earliest and would not be concluded until the "early-mid 2020s".
A spokesman for the Department for Exiting the EU said: "Of course the negotiation will present challenges, but the UK enters it from a position of strength and with a determination to approach the discussion in a spirit of goodwill and mutual interest."