BRUSSELS – Despite all of the complications and wounded feelings Brexit has brought to the relationship between the European Union and its former member Britain, a diplomatic spit was added this week recalling a similar argument made by former President Donald J. Trump was initiated.
So far, at least, Britain has refused to grant the European Union ambassador the same diplomatic status as other ambassadors.
The British argument is that the European Union is an international association, not a nation-state, and should be treated the same as other international organizations further down the diplomatic ranking. There is also suspicion that the UK government is trying to embarrass Brussels and contrast its own nation-state status with the federal government it was about to leave.
The argument was first reported from the BBC, and the issue is still being negotiated, representatives from both sides said Thursday.
“The EU’s commitment to the long-term agreements for the EU delegation in the UK will continue,” said a statement from the UK Foreign Office.
Later on Thursday, a Foreign Office spokesman explained the UK position, saying that “regardless of the deal reached,” in the end “the EU, its delegation and staff will receive the privileges and immunities necessary to carry out their work can.” effective in the UK. “
Peter Stano, spokesman for the European External Action Service, said that the European Union is granted “privileges and immunities equivalent to diplomatic missions under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations” and that it is unifying in 143 other countries and multilateral organizations around the world have such status “And Britain is well aware of that fact.”
Both sides found that the levels of representation were not taken into account in the Brexit negotiations.
Britain’s exit from the bloc is still raw, with significant teething troubles and customs issues that delay reciprocal trade, and its position seems to emphasize what Brexiters call their “liberation” from the European Union and obligations of shared sovereignty.
One of the results of a downgrade would be to confirm that the EU ambassador is not allowed to show ID to the Queen.
Ian Bond, director of foreign affairs at the Center for European Reforms in London, said Britain’s “attempt to downgrade the status of the EU delegation to the UK looks petty and guaranteed to be annoying when the UK needs friends in Brussels. ”
It was “worth noting that Trump tried the same trick but had to back down,” he said, referring to it a similar downgrade the status of the EU ambassador to Washington two years ago.
“Is that a good precedent?” said Mr. Bond.
Ambassador David O’Sullivan’s demotion became apparent at President George HW Bush’s funeral in December 2018, when Mr. O’Sullivan’s name was out of the expected order. The names of diplomats who had gathered in Washington to pay their respects to the former president were read, as usual, from senior ambassador to newest, but Mr O’Sullivan was the last to be called.
Mr Trump was known for his distaste for the European Union, which he compared to an enemy and a rival, not an ally. But after the news broke, former American ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, was instrumental in getting the Trump administration to do so Restoring the diplomatic status of the EU and ranked three months later.
Of course, when Britain was still a member of the European Union, it was open to defending the bloc’s diplomatic status vis-à-vis the Trump administration.
The EU ambassador in London, João Vale de Almeida, is one of the most experienced of the bloc. He was previously Ambassador of the European Union to the United Nations from 2015 to 2019 and Ambassador to the United States from 2010 to 2014.