The EU has attacked Boris Johnson’s government after it lost its full diplomatic status in the UK.
Josep Borrell, the European Commission’s foreign affairs chief, said that of the EU’s 143 delegations worldwide, the UK is the only government to have demoted its status.
“We will not accept this,” he said at a press conference on Monday.
The spat came after Joao Vale de Almeida, the EU’s first ambassador in London since the Brexit, was not given the same status as ambassadors sent by national governments.
Addressing the row at a European Commission foreign affairs council, Borrell said: “It’s not a friendly signal… the first one the UK has sent to us immediately after leaving the EU [when the transition period ended on 31 December].
“If things have to continue like this, there are no good prospects.
“We do not ask for something new or any special treatment. The status of the EU is recognised by countries and international organisations around the world, and we expect the UK to treat EU delegations accordingly and without delay.”
Borrell added that “we are confident we can clear this issue with our friends in London” before warning: “We will not accept the UK [being] the only country in the world that doesn’t recognise the delegation of the EU, the equivalent of a diplomatic mission.”
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Senior Tories questioned the government’s approach on Monday, with Tobias Ellwood, chair of the House of Commons defence committee, describing the row as a “silly spat” and saying the UK should be “better than this”.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “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.”
However, Brussels said the EU’s 143 delegations and staff in other parts of the world had been accorded a status equivalent to countries’ embassies under the Vienna Convention, which governs the rules of international diplomacy.
The Vienna Convention grants diplomats immunity from detention, criminal jurisdiction and taxation.
But the PA quoted Whitehall sources as saying international organisations were offered “very similar privileges and immunities” to diplomatic missions sent by foreign governments.
The UK is continuing to negotiate with the EU over the long-term arrangements for the delegation.
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