Thursday, March 4, 2021
March 4, 2021

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UK, EU in spat over diplomatic status of bloc’s ambassador

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LONDON (AP) — Britain has sparked a post-Brexit spat with the European Union by declining to grant the bloc’s first-ever ambassador to the country full diplomatic status.

Joao Vale de Almeida is the 27-nation EU’s envoy to the U.K., which left the bloc last year. But the British government says the EU is an international organization, rather than a country, and has not given Vale de Almeida the full rights accorded to ambassadors under the Vienna Convention, including immunity from taxation and prosecution.

The EU says the rest of its 143 delegations around the world have all been given full diplomatic status.

“The EU’s status in external relations and its subsequent diplomatic status is amply recognized by countries and international organizations around the world, and we expect the United Kingdom to treat the EU Delegation accordingly and without delay,” European Commission spokesman Peter Stano said Thursday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, Jamie Davies, said the Foreign Office was in talks with the EU about “the long-term arrangements for the EU delegation in the U.K.”

“I am not going to pre-empt the outcome of those negotiations,” he said.

The Foreign Office said in a statement that “the EU, its delegation and staff will receive the privileges and immunities necessary to enable them to carry out their work in the U.K. effectively.”

The U.K. government didn’t say whether that amounted to full diplomatic mission status. Britain argues that representatives of diplomatic missions and international organizations have “similar” privileges and immunities, including immunity from prosecution and exemption from some taxes.

Tobias Ellwood, a lawmaker with the governing Conservative Party who heads Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said the government was being “petty.”

Ellwood said that President Joe Biden “commits to strengthening alliances, and we engage in silly spats which will not help strengthen security and trade cooperation.”

“We are better than this,” he said.

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