Brexit: Barnier says EU will ‘always’ have strong ties with UK
Lindsay Croisdale-Appleby was scheduled to have his first meeting with a senior EU official in his new role today, with a planned meeting with Frédéric Bernard, the chief of European Council President Charles Michel’s Cabinet. But the meeting was cancelled by the EU official in what is being seen as a petty response to a recent UK political decision made in light of the new post-Brexit relationship with the bloc.
An EU official with knowledge of the agenda told Politico the meeting was “postponed for the time being”.
In a hint the move was connected to Boris Johnson’s decision to deny diplomatic status to the EU ambassador to the UK last week, the EU official said “clarity” about Joao Vale de Almeida’s position was needed before the bloc could move forward with its schedule.
Mr de Almeida is the EU’s first ambassador in London after the UK’s departure from the bloc.
On Wednesday, European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic said the decision was “very important politically” and meant Brexit Britain “would treat the European Union delegation in worse terms than any other country on the planet”.
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Mr Sefcovic told the Financial Times: “I’m sure that it’s very important for the UK that their diplomats here are properly treated and have appropriate access, and it’s very important for us to have the same in London.”
Mr Sefcovic has been tasked with overseeing the future trading relationship between the UK and the Brussels bloc.
He warned the bloc’s foreign ministers have raised concerns over the matter at a recent meeting.
He said: “We do not want to exaggerate or dramatise the situation but we clearly want our British colleagues and partners to know that this is an issue, which we hope we will solve through the discussions.
“The UK knows pretty well that we are not just an international organisation.”
Britain’s decision was also criticised at home when House of Lords peers described the move as “vindictive” and “offensive” on Tuesday.
Foreign Office minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said the Government continued to engage with the EU on the long-term arrangements for the EU delegation.
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Lord Ahmad told peers he did not wish to pre-empt those talks and insisted the Government wanted a relationship based on “friendly cooperation” with the EU.
But the minister faced criticism of the Government’s stance in the spat from both sides of the House at question time.
Labour’s former Cabinet minister Lord Reid of Cardowan said the initial decision not to grant full status to the ambassador would be seen by the rest of the international community as “peevish and vindictive”.
Lord Reid urged ministers to “reverse this blunder and do the honourable thing”.
Lord Ahmad replied the Government continued to negotiate and work with the EU on the long term arrangements and wanted an “optimum outcome” which worked for both sides.
Tory Baroness Hooper said the decision was “gratuitously offensive” not only to Brussels and the EU states but also to Portugal as the ambassador was a Portuguese diplomat.
She asked what benefit this “unnecessary action” could bring for Britain.
Lord Ahmad said he could not pre-empt discussions with the EU but assured peers that the EU delegation would have all the privileges and immunities they needed to “function effectively”.
Liberal Democrat Baroness Ludford suggested the Government was “squandering goodwill” and acting in a “petty” fashion.
Lord Ahmad said the Government wanted the UK to be the “best ally and the best partner to the EU”.
Labour’s Lord Liddle questioned even the need for discussions on the ambassador’s status and accused the Foreign Secretary of searching for “cheap points” that will go down well with Brexiteer backbenchers.
Lord Ahmad denied this, insisting Dominic Raab had close working partnerships and friendships across the EU.
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