An undiplomatic row

The World Trade Organisation, The United Nations, The Holy See, Russia, China, Syria, Central African Republic, Timor-Leste. What do they have in common? They are just some of the 143 countries and multilateral organisations throughout the World that have granted EU ambassadors the same privileges and immunities equivalent to those of diplomatic missions under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

The UK, however, has chosen not to, instead arguing that the EU is an international organisation rather than a country. The EU Ambassador to the UK, João Vale de Almeida is one of the most experienced of all EU diplomats having previously served as ambassador to the United States between 2010 and 2014 and then as ambassador to the United Nations from 2015 to 2019.

To add further insult, the new head of the UK Mission to the EU, Lindsay Croisdale-Appleby who was appointed on the day that the BBC first reported the snub to the EU will take his post as a Grade 3 diplomat (on par with ambassadors in Berlin or Paris), whilst his predecessor Sir Tim Barrow was grade 4 (on par with Washington).

In a hasty climbdown the Foreign Office issued a statement clarifying that the EU’s “delegation and the staff will receive the privileges and immunities necessary to enable them to carry out their work in the U.K. effectively.”

       The stance taken by the Foreign Office has been criticised by David Lidington, former Conservative Minister for Europe who expressed hope that the Foreign Office “does not pick a fight on this” and Tobias Ellwood another former Conservative Foreign minister who described it as “simply petty”

There is a precedent from 2019, when President Trump initiated a similar argument with the EU about the status of the EU ambassador to the United States.  On the day that President Biden started work on trying to rebuild America’s international reputation, it seems that British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, has driven another nail into our international reputation.

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