Michael Gove and Sir Ivan Rogers
Sir Ivan Rogers set the cat amongst the pigeons when he quit last month, saying he was leaving early so a successor could be in place before the onset of Brexit negotiations.
Sir Ivan, appointed to the job by David Cameron in 2013, had been expected to play a key role in the complex divorce talks with experienced EU negotiators.
But he was reportedly frustrated at top Brexit ministers' inability to properly understand briefings about the the union so stood down before his term was due to expire in October.
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Michael Gove questions Sir Ivan Rogers
In a letter informing staff of his decision to stand down he wrote: “I hope you will continue to challenge ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking and that you will never be afraid to speak the truth to those in power.
“I hope that you will support each other in those difficult moments where you have to deliver messages that are disagreeable to those who need to hear them.”
Sir Ivan was today asked to explain his remarks by former justice minister and key Brexit campaigner Michael Gove when he appeared before the Commons Brexit Committee.
Sir Ivan Rogers appears before MPs on the Commons Brexit Committee
Do you think some of the muddle has been cleared up or has the situation got worse?
Mr Gove challenged Sir Ivan to an give example of the ‘muddled thinking’ he has talked about in his letter to colleagues.
He said: “In the email you sent when you left you asked your colleagues to make sure to challenge ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking on the part ministers. Do you think some of the muddle has been cleared up or has the situation got worse?”
Sir Ivan told MPs: “It was a generic point not directed at ministers but more directed at the system. They system is overloaded at the moment.
The Commons Brexit Committee hears from Sir Ivan Rogers Key Quotes: Sir Ivan Rogers reveals Brexit worries Wed, February 22, 2017
Speaking to the Exiting the European Union Committee, Sir Ivan Rogers said finance ministers across the bloc are racing to consider how they will raise cash after Britain leaves the EU
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'On free movement there are anxieties about free movement'
“It is very difficult at the moment for my excellent former colleagues because everyone is consumed by Brexit and Brexitology and everything they are trying to to create the new world – and that is the most important thing.
“I was exhorting people to do what I think they always did willingly under my leadership, which is all truth unto power.”
Sir Ivan had earlier warned the committee that in Brussels “the key players, the key officials, the key technocrats, the key theologians" think a new relationship may not be agreed until 2022 even if negotiations proceed "unprecedentedly fast".