UK mulls refusing EU ambassador full diplomatic status | News | DW | 21.01.2021
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UK mulls refusing EU ambassador full diplomatic status

Britain's government may not grant the EU ambassador full diplomatic status, as the bloc is not a nation-state. The proposal marks the latest row between Brussels and London following the UK's departure from the EU.

EU and UK flags

The UK Foreign Office argued that the EU is not a nation state

On Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman said the European Union's delegation to the UK would be granted the diplomatic privileges and immunity necessary to enable it to work, without saying whether that would be the same status conferred on national ambassadors.

"The EU, its delegation and staff will receive the privileges and immunities necessary to enable them to carry out their work in the UK effectively," the spokesman told reporters.

The BBC had reported earlier that the UK planned to refuse to give full diplomatic status to the European Union's ambassador in London, prompting a diplomatic spat between Britain and the 27-member bloc.

According to the report, the UK Foreign Office intended not to grant the same diplomatic status, immunities and privileges to Joao Vale de Almeida and his team as it gives to diplomats of nation states under the Vienna Convention.

The report also said the Foreign Office was hesitant to give EU diplomats immunity and privileges because it did not want to set an example in the eyes of other international organizations.

"It's a matter of fact that the EU is a collective of nations, but it's not a state ... in its own right," Johnson's spokesman said.

EU 'not a typical international organization'

The European Commission defended the status of EU diplomats in London, arguing that the bloc's 143 delegations worldwide had all been given a status equivalent to that of diplomatic missions of nation states — something the UK was aware of.

"Granting reciprocal treatment based on the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations is standard practice between equal partners and we are confident that we can clear this issue with our friends in London in a satisfactory manner," said Peter Stano, the European Commission's spokesman for foreign affairs.

Stano highlighted that the UK had been supportive of the diplomatic status of EU delegations when it was still a member.

"Nothing has changed since the UK's exit from the European Union to justify any change in stance on the UK's part," he said, adding that the EU is "not a typical international organization."

"It has been conferred substantial competences by its member states, has the power to adopt legislation binding on its member states, has its own decision-making institutions and its own system of judicial control, and has established a common currency," Stano said.

The EU's chief negotiator during the Brexit process, Michel Barnier, also warned the UK that the bloc was unlike any other international body.

"They have to be very careful," Barnier said, adding:  "I know that once again it cannot be business as usual ... but we are not an international organization like the others. We are the union and the UK took part in this union for more or less 47 or 48 years."

Earlier, the BBC had cited a Foreign Office spokesperson as saying: "Engagement continues with the EU on the long-term arrangements for the EU delegation to the UK. While discussions are still ongoing, it would not be appropriate for us to speculate on the detail of an eventual agreement."

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mvb/msh (Reuters, dpa)

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