Six things we know about Sir Tim Barrow, the UK's new ambassador to the EU

Mark Sands
Follow Mark
Barrow, pictured left, spent five years as the UK's ambassador to Russia. (Source: Getty)

The Foreign Office moved rapidly yesterday to recruit a new ambassador to the EU, announcing senior diplomat Sir Tim Barrow's appointment within 48 hours of the resignation of his predecessor, Sir Ivan Rogers.

But what do we know about the new man?

Read more: Former EU ambassador “couldn't be trusted” by ministers says IDS

1. Barrow is one of the UK's most senior diplomats

For five years, Barrow was entrusted with representing the UK in Russia, but he's also served in Ukraine and advised foreign secretaries directly.

As far back as 1998 he was private secretary to then-foreign secretary Robin Cook, with a focus on the EU, Russia and the Middle East.

And since March last year, he's been a member of the board at the Foreign Office, overseeing a huge range of responsibilities as the political director.

Former Labour Europe minister Douglas Alexander, who worked with Barrow in the Europe directorate in 2005 before joining parliament had this to say -

2. He's got the reputation of being “bulletproof”

Having helmed UK relations with Russia through a challenging spell in the years running up to 2015, Barrow has been described in some flattering terms by his peers.

Tom Fletcher, a former Number 10 policy adviser and the ex-ambassador to Lebanon, told the Today programme this morning: “I saw him in Moscow where he was incredibly resilient as an ambassador there, dealing with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin in a very testing time in our relationship and Tim had a reputation of being bulletproof out there”.

3. But he also knows the corridors in Brussels

One of the early reactions to Barrow's appointment was that he could struggle with the technocratic details on the EU as he moves over from a foreign policy role.

One Whitehall source told City A.M.: “It's going to be a tricky adjustment and he will need a very good, technical deputy permanent representative to help him with some of those details”.

While that may be true, Barrow is no novice to the European institutions. In fact, he spent three years working in Brussels in that very EU embassy, with a focus on the security, up until 2011.

4. Barrow keeps his cards close to his chest...

A seasoned operator, one source told City A.M. last night that while Barrow is well-respected in diplomatic circles, the UK's new EU ambassador is regarded as a serious figure.

“I've spoken to him hundreds of times, and I've no idea what his views are on something like the EU,” they said.

Such discretion may go down well with those who felt his predecessor was too supportive of the European Union. Speaking of which...

5. ... and he's already got some Tory Brexiteers on side

While Sir Ivan Rogers' exit was welcomed in some Eurosceptic circles, the new man in Brussels appears to be starting on the right foot.

Leading Tory Brexiteer Steve Baker said Barrow was “ideally qualified” for his new role, and fellow Leave backer and foreign secretary Boris Johnson also heralded the appointment as “fantastic”.

That said, not everyone is thrilled with the appointment. Here's former Ukip leader Nigel Farage -

6. But for all that, Barrow may not even be the main man

Barrow's role is indisputably an important one, but some are already noting its significance may have been overstated in the aftermath of Rogers' exit.

Open Europe's Vincenzo Scarpetta has been among those cautioning the likely lead for the UK will actually be the man at the top of the Department for Exiting the EU.

Scarpetta told City A.M yesterday: “That role would be for the sherpa and the sherpa is going to be [Brexit ministry permanent secretary] Oliver Robbins.”

Related articles