Why the UK is refusing to give EU ambassadors full diplomatic status
Foreign Office ignoring calls to grant the usual privileges and immunities to the bloc’s representative
The UK has triggered the first major post-Brexit row with the EU by refusing to grant full diplomatic status to the bloc’s ambassador in London and his 25-strong mission.
The issue has been simmering for more than a year but has now bubbled over following the leak of letters that reveal EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell has “serious concerns about the status being given to EU officials in the UK”, The Guardian reports.
In a letter sent to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in November, Borrell warns that the arrangements offered for ambassador Joao Vale de Almeida “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”.
The Foreign Office has said that Almeida and his team will be treated the same as other international bodies, and granted “the privileges and immunities necessary to enable them to carry out their work in the UK effectively”.
But Brussels points out that 142 other countries across the world grant EU ambassadors the same status as diplomats, and insists there is “nothing to justify” the UK’s decision, the Financial Times (FT) reports.
EU officials have “privately accused the Foreign Office of hypocrisy”, adds The Guardian. The UK was a signatory to a 2010 agreement that EU diplomats be granted diplomatic “privileges and immunities”.
However, “the UK could argue it is no longer bound to this agreement since it has left the EU”, the paper adds.
An ally of Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the FT that the UK’s decision meant that “the ambassador doesn’t get to present his credentials to the Queen, but surely it isn’t about that? The EU sees itself as a state - we see it as an international organisation.”
The issue is expected to be discussed when EU foreign ministers meet on Monday for the first time since the post-Brexit transition period ended on 31 December.
Under Donald Trump, the US downgraded the diplomatic status of the EU mission for almost a year, before reversing its position in March 2019.