Sunday

28th Nov 2021

EU warns UK to be 'very careful' in diplomatic status row

  • The Europe House HQ in London, home to the EU delegation to the UK, formerly known as the EU representation. The building itself was formerly the Conservative Party's head office (Photo: European Commission)

The EU's top Brexit official, Michel Barnier on Thursday (21 January) warned London that the UK should be "very careful" how it handles the status of the EU's ambassador to London in the wake of Brexit.

The UK has raised eyebrows in Brussels and at home over its reluctance to give full diplomatic privileges to João Vale de Almeida, the EU's ambassador to the UK.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Barnier, who was the chief Brexit negotiator for the EU and has been appointed as a special Brexit advisor to the EU Commission, said at an event that "it would be wise for the UK to find a clever solution".

The UK wants to treat the EU's London representation as merely an international organisation, and argues that the EU ambassador and his staff should not have the privileges and immunities granted to diplomats under the Vienna Convention.

In the over 140 countries where the EU has a delegation, its ambassador is granted the same status as diplomats representing sovereign countries.

The EU has argued (in a position which was supported by the UK when it was a member), that the bloc is not a classical international organisation, because it has its own currency, judicial system and has the power to make laws.

"I know the spin, and sometimes more than the spin, of the UK authorities speaking about the EU like an international organisation, but we are not an international organisation like the others. We are the union, and the UK took part in this union for more than 47 years," Barnier said.

"I hope that we will be able together to find a clever and objective solution to the status of the EU in London," he added.

The EU's foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell has written to the British foreign secretary Dominic Raab, to express his "serious concerns", the BBC reported.

"The arrangements offered do not reflect the specific character of the EU, nor do they respond to the future relationship between the EU and the UK as an important third country," Borrell said in the letter seen by the BBC.

"This is simply petty," the Conservative MP and defence committee chairman, Tobias Ellwood, tweeted.

"[US president Joe] Biden commits to strengthening alliances and we engage in silly spats which will not help strengthen security and trade cooperation. We are better than this," he added.

"Feels petty and, just as important, at odds with the PM's [Boris Johnson] desire to move on from these arguments and try to bring the country back together," former chief of staff to prime minister Theresa May, Gavin Barwell tweeted.

He said it was "difficult to understand why the government is refusing to give EU diplomats full diplomatic status, when the UK used to support this, and every other country does it.

The UK's move echoed similar action by the Trump administration when it downgraded the diplomatic status of the EU mission for nearly a year.

After a backlash from the EU, including London at the time, the US reversed its position in March 2019.

EU prepares to ratify post-Brexit trade deal

EU ambassadors of the 27 member states are meeting on Monday to provisionally apply the agreement, while top MEPs also discuss the way ahead for parliamentary approval.

EU envoy to US flaunts new powers

The EU's new ambassador to the US, Joao Vale de Almeida, has underlined the new powers conferred on EU envoys by the Lisbon Treaty while taking up his post in Washington.

Agenda

Vaccine delay and Russia sanctions debates This WEEK

The director of the European Medicine Agency, Emer Cooke will be quizzed by MEPs in the parliament on vaccine authorisation on Tuesday. EMA is expected to give the green light to the third vaccine at the end of the week.

News in Brief

  1. Covid variant: EU to block travel from southern Africa
  2. France and UK seek EU help on Channel migrants
  3. New Swedish PM who resigned after 7 hours gets second chance
  4. Belgium to decide on Friday on Covid measures
  5. UK rings alarm on new Covid strain in South Africa
  6. Turkish police use tear gas at women's rights march
  7. Poland calls for more Nato troops
  8. Ex-Navalny aide leaves Russia

Post-Brexit talks in last push until Sunday

The probability of no deal has increased as a last-ditch effort by British prime minister Boris Johnson and EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen did not bridge gaps.

Opinion

What a No Deal Brexit is going to look like

Research by the London School of Economics forecasts that a no-deal Brexit could be three times as bad as the pandemic for the UK economy, writes mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and the president of the Committee of the Regions.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. Belgium goes into three-week 'lockdown light'
  2. MEPs list crimes of 'Kremlin proxy' mercenaries
  3. EU to open up 'black box' of political ads
  4. Can the ECB solve climate change and inflation on its own?
  5. EU set to limit vaccine certificate to nine months
  6. Surprise coalition in Romania without former Renew's Ciolos
  7. This 'Black Friday' is a turning point in corporate accountability
  8. West struggling to show strength on Ukraine

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us