Brussels on alert as furious MEP erupts over UK ambassador spat: ‘EU must NOT build state’

Michel Barnier presented award by European Movement Ireland

The warning came from Finnish MEP Laura Huhtasaari who backed the UK’s decision to deny EU Ambassador Joao Vale de Almeida the same diplomatic status enjoyed by other ambassadors of national governments. The eurosceptic MEP was prompt to point out the European Union is not a state and “should not be treated as such”. She tweeted: “The British do not want to give the EU ambassador in Brussels the same diplomatic rights as the ambassadors of European countries.

“After all, the United States is not a separate ambassador from Texas either.

“The EU is not a state and should not be treated as such.

“And the EU must not build a state.”

Charles-Henri Gallois, founder of Generation Frexit, campaigning for France to leave the EU, also hailed the decision.

He tweeted: “Boris Johnson avenge France of the infamous Treaty of Lisbon!

“The United Kingdom refuses to grant the same diplomatic status as a state to the EU ambassador since he does not consider the EU Flag of European Union like a nation state!

“Thanks to him!”

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Speaking on Thursday as he received the European Movement Ireland award, former EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the UK should be “very careful” over its approach.

Mr Barnier said: “I know the spin of the UK authorities, speaking about the EU like international organisations, but we are not an international organisation.

“I hope that we will be able to find a clever and objective solution to the status of the EU in London.

“It would be wise in my view to for the UK to find a clever solution.

Former UK ambassador to the EU, Sir Ivan Rogers, told Playbook the “stupid” move from Westminster will backfire.

He argued the decision “demonstrates yet again that the Government cares much more about appeasing its base” than protecting its EU relationship.

Senior Tory Tobias Ellwood described the row as a “silly spat” and insisted the UK should be “better than this”.

Mr Ellwood, chairman of the Commons Defence Committee, said: “This is simply petty.

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“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.”

Former Europe minister Sir David Lidington said he hoped the Foreign Office “doesn’t pick a fight on this”, warning that non-recognition could set a “bad precedent” for regimes that hate EU ambassadors speaking up in support of human rights.

A UK 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.”

But 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 Whitehall sources insisted that 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.

European Commission spokesman Peter Stano said the UK, which, as a member of the EU, was a signature to the Lisbon Treaty which established the European External Action Service diplomatic network, was “well aware of the EU’s status in external relations”.

“Nothing has changed since the UK’s exit from the European Union to justify any change in stance on the UK’s part,” he said.

“The EU’s status in external relations and its subsequent diplomatic status is amply recognised by countries and international organisations around the world, and we expect the United Kingdom to treat the EU Delegation accordingly and without delay.”

He said granting reciprocal treatment based on the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations is “standard practice” between equal partners and we are “confident that we can clear this issue with our friends in London in a satisfactory manner”.

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