Nigel Farage has called for a “clear-out” of the Foreign Office because it is too committed to the EU, as Britain’s EU ambassador stood down triggering a row over how committed British diplomats are to Brexit.
Sir Ivan Rogers stood down on Tuesday, just before weeks of the Government’s deadline for invoking Article 50 and starting negotiations to leave the EU.
The Government said only that Rogers had “taken this decision now to enable a successor to be appointed before the UK invokes Article 50 by the end of March”.
Rogers, who became ambassador in 2013, previously earned the ire of Brexiters by saying it would take a decade to negotiate Britain’s departure from the union.
On Channel 4 News, Farage said Rogers “can’t accept the result [of the Brexit referendum]” and should have stood down the day after it.
He told Jon Snow: “I don’t think we should have diplomats who are committed to Britain being part of the European Union, who can’t accept the result and who in a desperately negative way, as Sir Ivan did, say it could take ten years to renegotiate a deal with the European Union.
“That is no use to us at all. And frankly he should have gone when David Cameron did the day after the referendum.”
He added the Foreign Office had been “the lead vehicle for deeper European integration”.
He said: “I’ve served for 17 years in Brussels. I had a lot to do with the Foreign Office over those years. There’s never been any attempt at neutrality. They were frankly a part of the problem and I think that marks a wonderful moment for a complete change of direction,”
“No organisation has done more than to give away our democratic rights than the Foreign Office. They’ve been doing it for decades and I very much hope that Sir Ivan is the first of many to go.”
Earlier on Tuesday, the argument raged on Twitter over whether Britain’s Brexit negotiators should have experience negotiatings deals.
On Channel 4, Snow questioned Farage on whether it was wise to advocate a clear out of diplomats when they were the ones with the expertise on how the EU worked.
Farage said: “What we need now are some hard-nosed people who don’t play by the Queensbury rules, because that’s what the Foreign Office do, that’s why we lose, that’s why the renegotiation was botched as badly as it was.
“I think there’s a good case for a big clear-out in the Foreign Office across the world.
“We have a fantastic global opportunity through Brexit. We need a Foreign Office that are with that, that understand that and want to start promoting that.”
Bombastic millionaire Leave campaigner Arron Banks joined in on the attacks on Rogers.
The Leave.EU chairman said: “This is a man who claimed it could take up to 10 years to agree a Brexit deal. He is far too much of a pessimist and yet another of the Establishment’s Old Guard.
“He has at least done the honourable thing in resigning. It’s time now for someone who is optimistic about the future that lies ahead for Brexit Britain.”
He resurrected a previous, bizarre suggestion that Farage could replace the British ambassador to the US, which Donald Trump said in a tweet shortly after his election as president in November.
Banks added: “If the British ambassador to the US (and a dripping wet EU Fanatic) Sir Kim could resign as well, we might start to make some progress there too.”
Rogers was defended by people who supported Britain remaining in the EU, including ex-Chancellor George Osborne tweeted to say Rogers was “a perceptive, pragmatic and patriotic public servant”
Ex-Lib Dem leader and deputy PM Nick Clegg said his departure was a “spectacular own goal” for those most committed to Brexit.
“If the reports are true that he has been hounded out by hostile Brexiteers in government, it counts as a spectacular own goal,” he said.
“The resignation of someone as experienced as Sir Ivan Rogers is a body blow to the Government’s Brexit plans.”
On ITV News, Farage was asked who should replace Rogers are Britain’s EU ambassador.
He said: “I don’t know. My name was suggested. I suspect it’s unlikely.”