Brexit: Expert says Europe is ‘nervous’ about UK’s direction
In the first major clash point between the two international partners since Brexit, EU ambassador Joao Vale de Almeida has been refused certain diplomatic privileges and immunities. The UK is understood to have refused the status because the bloc is not a nation state.
The Foreign Office does not want to set a precedent of giving the diplomatic privileges outlined in the Vienna Convention to international bodies.
Furious at the decision, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell, described the UK’s proposals as unreasonable.
Brussels has been granted full diplomatic status by 142 countries around the world.
EU foreign ministers are expected to discuss the issue when they meet next Monday.
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According to the BBC, in a letter sent to Dominic Raab, Mr Borrell said: “Your service have sent us a draft proposal for an establishment agreement about which we have serious concerns.
“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.
“It would not grant the customary privileges and immunities for the delegation and its staff.
“The proposals do not constitute a reasonable basis for reaching an agreement.”
The Foreign Office said it “would not be appropriate for us to speculate on the detail of an eventual agreement”.
Refusal to grant full diplomatic status means EU ambassadors do not have immunity from detention, criminal jurisdiction and taxation.
There are fewer protections specifically laid out in law for representatives of international organisations.
A European Commission spokesman said: “The EU has 143 delegations, equivalent to diplomatic missions, around the world.
“Without exception, all host states have accepted to grant these delegations and their staff a status equivalent to that of diplomatic missions of states under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and the UK is well aware of this fact.”
The decision has also been criticised by Conservative parliamentarians in the UK.
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Tory MP Tobias Ellwood said: “This is simply petty. 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.”
Lord Barwell, Theresa May’s chief of staff when she was Prime Minister said Boris Johnson’s Government had made a “mistake” by refusing the status.
He added on Twitter: “Difficult to understand why the Government is refusing to give EU diplomats full diplomatic status when a) we used to support this b) every other country does it and c) on Christmas Eve the PM spoke warmly about what close friends we would be.”
Following the agreement of the EU trade deal on December 24 the Prime Minister made a televised address in which he pledged to be a close ally of the trade bloc.
He promised Brexit Britain would be a friend to the EU and the pair would continue to work together on the world stage.
He said the new relationship was “a good deal for the whole of Europe and for our friends and partners as well”.
The Prime Minister continued: “I think this deal means a new stability and a new certainty in what has sometimes been a fractious and difficult relationship.
“We will be your friend, your ally, your supporter and indeed – never let it be forgotten – your number one market.
“Because although we have left the EU this country will remain culturally, emotionally, historically, strategically and geologically attached to Europe, not least through the four million EU nationals who have requested to settle in the UK over the last four years and who make an enormous contribution to our country and to our lives.”
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