Wednesday

28th Feb 2024

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

Get the EU news that really matters

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.

Opinion

For Ukraine's sake, pass the EU due diligence directive

The EU Commission's 2022 CSDDD proposal did not include provisions incorporating "conflict due diligence", they were added, after the Russian invasion, by the European Parliament and Council into the final directive text — for Ukraine's sake, vote for it.

Latest News

  1. Macron on Western boots in Ukraine: What he really meant
  2. Amazon lobbyists banned from EU Parliament
  3. MEPs slap three-month ban on foreign ads ahead of EU polls
  4. EU nature restoration law approved after massive backlash
  5. Memo from Munich — EU needs to reinvent democracy support
  6. For Ukraine's sake, pass the EU due diligence directive
  7. All of Orbán's MPs back Sweden's Nato entry
  8. India makes first objection to EU carbon levy at WTO summit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us