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The UK does not want to elevate the EU delegation to embassy status. Unfriendly! (v2)

(B2) The refusal of the British government to recognize all its rights to the EU delegation in London provokes European ire

(credit: PE)

The ink on the treaty on the exit of the United Kingdom (concluded just before Christmas) is not yet dry and London is already causing trouble. Boris Johnson's government does not agree, in fact, to give the EU delegation in London the rank it deserves, in particular the usual diplomatic privileges and immunities and in particular the rank of ambassador for its leader. This arouses the fury of Europeans.

The break with an old practice

The High Representative of the EU, the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell did not hide his incomprehension to the press on Monday (25.01). “ We are not asking for something new. We are not asking for special treatment. The external status of the European Union is recognized by countries and internal organizations around the world. We have 143 delegations around the world. Without a single exception, all host States have agreed to grant these delegations and their staff a status equivalent to that of diplomatic missions of States under the Vienna Convention »

An unfriendly signal

« We expect the United Kingdom to treat the European Union delegation accordingly and without delay. “And to add:” We will [therefore] not accept that the United Kingdom is the only country in the world not to recognize the EU as a delegation and not to grant it diplomatic facilities. […] This is not a friendly signal. If things continue like this, it does not bode well »

Unacceptable to Parliament

Identical reaction in the European Parliament. " This is unacceptable » launched Nathalie Loiseau, president of the security and defense subcommittee, during a hearing this Tuesday (26.01) with the Secretary General of the European Diplomatic Service (EEAS), Stefano Sannino. “ I hope you don't come to a lame compromise on this issue. she launched.

The great Europe-UK love

In a more diplomatic way, but with fine irony, the Portuguese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Antonio Santos Silva, told us yesterday, after a long interview: “ All great loves are complex. And we have great love with the UK ».

Explanations: a British position rooted in time

In the British capital, the European Commission has always had an office, a representation, responsible for relaying the policy decided in Brussels in the country (and for passing information from the country to the European Commission). Classic. This is the case in all Member States. But Brexit has changed the situation. From a member state, the United Kingdom has become a third country. Exit therefore the representation of the Commission. Instead, comes a delegation from the European Union, a real embassy, ​​headed by an ambassador and several services, rather classic in an embassy (political, economic, cultural, and if necessary internal security and/or defense). The management of relations with the United Kingdom has also largely migrated. It has become a subject of 'external relations'...

By refusing to make this change, and by extension, to elevate the head of the EU delegation (*) to the rank of ambassador, London is refusing to make the divorce. A gesture where we can find springs at the level of psychology. But this decision is above all political. And for anyone who follows British policy in the EU, this is not really a surprise. The British have always refused to recognize any role for the European Union in foreign policy or defense, or what could amount to a small hint of political Union. In 2011 (when the EEAS was created), they fought hard for months to refuse to recognize the EU to make declarations on behalf of Europeans at the United Nations. While they were present, they blocked the establishment of a permanent military HQ for the EU. Finally, they refused to incorporate foreign policy into the EU exit treaty. While all the elements were there for an agreement (read: Brexmas. Foreign policy and defence, two orphans of the agreement).

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Accreditation of the British Ambassador in Brussels delayed
The first meeting between the new British ambassador to the EU in Brussels, Lindsay Croisdale-Appleby, and the chief of staff of the President of the European Council, Frédéric Bernard, scheduled for Thursday (28.01), has been postponed. Sine die. A gesture of humor vis-à-vis the British refusal to raise the EU delegation in London to the diplomatic level. It is " a measure of reciprocity ". confirms to B2 a European official. NB: this normally formal meeting allows a new ambassador to make contact, but above all to submit his letter of credentials and to initiate the process of accreditation with the EU.

(*) This delegation is not led by just anyone. Its head is the Portuguese Joao Vale de Almeida, who was the EU ambassador in Washington from 2010 to 2014 then in New York at the UN until 2019, and previously deputy spokesperson ( under Santer) and chief of staff to the President of the Commission (under Barroso). In short, an experienced man.

Read also: How to involve the United Kingdom in foreign and defense policy? Reflection resumes (v2)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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