An open letter from 43 former British Ambassadors and High Commissioners calls on Theresa May to change direction on Brexit – saying that it would be wrong to leave the EU on the basis of a Political Declaration that offers no clarity about the United Kingdom’s future relationship with our closest neighbours and biggest trading partner.
It comes as the Prime Minister’s deal was – once again – rejected by the House of Commons. The defeat by 303 votes against and 258 in favour – is significant. Even more significant is the pattern of voting – the abstentions and against voting increase the odds of a no-deal Brexit in exactly six weeks time.
The intervention from the Ambassadors could not be more timely – urging Parliament to use all the mechanisms at its disposal to seek to extend the Article 50 deadline. Their conclusion – even before knowing the outcome of the vote – is that the current “Brexit fiasco” makes “a powerful argument” to give the decision back to the people – asking whether they want to accept the negotiated Brexit ‘deal’ – or would prefer to remain in the European Union.
Signatories are led former Permanent Representative to the European Union and Ambassador to the United States of America, Sir Nigel Sheinwald. The letter is a public declaration of support for the People’s Vote from the most experienced group of UK representatives to the World.
Others signatories include Lord John Kerr, the author of Article 50; Lord David Hannay, Permanent Representative to the EEC under Margaret Thatcher’s government; and Lord Peter Ricketts, the former Ambassador to France.
In the letter the ambassadors say: “As former diplomats who have served around the world, we have a clear understanding of what contributes to Britain’s influence in the world. Our advice to Theresa May today is clear: we should not leave the EU when we have no clarity about our final destination. Instead we must use the mechanisms at our disposal, above all we must seek to extend the Article 50 negotiating period.”
“It is clear that Brexit has turned into a national crisis. There is no possible deal that will be a sensible alternative to the privileged one we have today as members of the EU with a seat at the table, inside the Single Market and Customs Union but outside the Euro and Schengen.”
On a People’s Vote, the ambassadors say: “There is now – in addition to extending Article 50 – a powerful argument to go back to the people and ask them whether they want the negotiated Brexit deal or would prefer to stay in the European Union.
“Our country’s national interest must always be paramount. The Brexit fiasco has already weakened the UK’s standing in the world. We strongly advocate a change of direction before it is too late.”
The full text of the letter and list of all 43 signatories:
“If the Prime Minister’s deal is passed in Parliament, it will not be the end of Brexit but will in fact mark the start of year upon on year of negotiation and renegotiation – truly a ‘Brexternity’ of endless uncertainty about our future for both citizens and businesses alike.
As former diplomats who have served around the world, we have a clear understanding of what contributes to Britain’s influence in the world. Our advice to Theresa May today is clear: we should not leave the EU when we have no clarity about our final destination. Instead we must use the mechanisms at our disposal, above all we must seek to extend the Article 50 negotiating period.
It is clear that Brexit has turned into a national crisis. There is no possible deal that will be a sensible alternative to the privileged one we have today as members of the EU with a seat at the table, inside the Single Market and Customs Union but outside the Euro and Schengen. There is now, in addition to extending Article 50, a powerful argument to go back to the people and ask them whether they want the negotiated Brexit deal or would prefer to stay in the European Union.
Our country’s national interest must always be paramount. The Brexit fiasco has already weakened the UK’s standing in the world. We strongly advocate a change of direction before it is too late.
Sir Nigel Sheinwald, Permanent Representative to the European Union 2000 -2003 and Ambassador to the United States 2007 – 2012
Lord John Kerr, Permanent Representative to the European Economic Community/European Union 1990 – 1995 and Ambassador to the United States 1995 – 1997
Lord David Hannay, Permanent Representative to the European Economic Community 1985 – 1990; Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York 1990 – 1995
Lord Peter Ricketts, Ambassador to France 2012 – 2016
Sir Christopher Mallaby, Ambassador to Germany 1988 – 1992 and France 1993 – 1996
Dame Mariot Leslie, former Permanent Representative to NATO and former Ambassador to Norway.
Sir Ivor Roberts, Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 1994 – 1997; Ireland 1999 – 2003 and Italy 2003 – 2006
Sir Roderic Lyne, UK Ambassador to Russia 2000 – 2004
Christopher Prentice, Ambassador to Jordan 2002 – 2006; Iraq 2007 – 2009 and Italy 2011 – 2016
Sir Bryan Cartledge, Ambassador to Hungary 1980 – 1983 and the Soviet Union 1985 – 1988
Sir Brian Fall, High Commissioner to Canada 1989 – 1992 and Ambassador to Russia 1992 – 1995
Sir John Birch, Ambassador to Hungary 1989 – 1995
Basil Eastwood, Ambassador to Syria 1996 -2000 and Switzerland 2001 – 2004
Nigel Thorpe, Ambassador to Hungary 1998 – 2003
Sir Stephen Barrett, Ambassador to Czechoslovakia 1985 – 1988 and to Poland 1988 – 1991
Dame Victoria Sutherland, former Ambassador to Ireland
Francis Cornish, Ambassador to Israel, 1998 – 2001
Oliver Miles, Ambassador to Libya 1984, Luxembourg 1985 – 1988 and Greece 1993 – 1996
Sarah Squire, Ambassador to Estonia 2000 – 2003
Dr William Squire, Ambassador to Israel 1984 – 1988
Sir William Patey, Ambassador to Sudan 2002 – 2005; Iraq 2005 – 2006 and Afghanistan 2010 – 2012
Sir Roger Bone, Ambassador to Sweden 1995 – 1999 and Brazil 1999 – 2004
Andrew Bache, Ambassador to Romania 1992 and Denmark 1996 – 1999
Sir Adrian Beamish, Former Ambassador to Mexico
Sir Michael Burton, Ambassador to the Czech Republic 1994 – 1997
Nigel Haywood, Ambassador to Estonia 2003 -2008 and Governor of the Falkland islands 2010 – 2014
Nicholas Jarrold, Ambassador to Latvia 1996 – 1999 and Croatia 2000 – 2004
Peter Jenkins, Former Ambassador to the WTO in Geneva and to the IEAA and the UN in Vienna 2001 – 2006
Bruce Dinwiddy, High Commissioner to Tanzania 1998 – 2001 and Governor of the Cayman Islands 2002 – 2005
Richard Ralph, Ambassador to Latvia 1993 – 1995, Governor of the Falkland Islands 1996 – 1999; Ambassador to Romania and to Moldova 1999 – 2002 and Ambassador to Peru 2003 – 2006
David Broucher, Ambassador to the Cech Republic 1997 – 2001
Richard Lavers, Ambassador to Ecuador 1993 – 1997 and Guatemala 2001 – 2006
Colin Munro, Ambassador to Croatia 1997 – 2000
Sir Peter Heap, High Commissioner to the Bahamas & Ambassador to Brazil
Hugh Arbuthnott, Ambassador to Romania 1986 – 1989, Ambassador to Portugal 1989 – 1993, Ambassador to Denmark 1993 – 1996
Sir Graham Boyce, Ambassador to Kuwait 1996 – 1999, Ambassador to Egypt 1999 – 2001
Sir David Brighty, Ambassador to Cuba 1989 -1991; Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic/Slovakia 1991 – 1994; Ambassador to Spain 1994 – 1998
Andrew Palmer, Ambassador to Cuba 1986 – 1988
Sir Roger Carrick, Ambassador to Indonesia 1990 – 1994 & High Commissioner to Australia 1994 – 1997
Richard Dalton, Ambassador to Libya 1999 and to Iran 2003 – 2006
Sir David Warren, Ambassador to Japan 2008 – 2012
Nicola Brewer, former High Commissioner to South Africa 2009-2013
Ian Bond, Ambassador to Latvia 2005 – 2007