The first inaugural meeting between the UK’s new diplomatic team in Brussels and senior EU officials since Brexit has been “postponed” in response to a spat over the bloc’s diplomatic status.
Lindsay Croisdale-Appleby, formally appointed this month to represent the UK in Brussels, was due to meet the chief aide to the European council president, Charles Michel, on Thursday.
But the meeting was “postponed for the time being” by the EU in response to the status of the bloc’s ambassador in London being downgraded, sources close to the matter have suggested.
The UK government is refusing to grant Joao Vale de Almeida full diplomatic status offered to other ambassadors because it does not view the EU as a nation-state and instead promised to grant him and his team of 25 the same status as an international organisation.
Brussels counters that it is not a typical international organisation because it has its own currency, judicial system, and power to make law.
Last week the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, Josep Borrell, said the move was “not a friendly signal”, adding: “If things continue like this there are no good prospects.”
The meeting with Michel’s chief aide, Frédéric Bernard, was a courtesy before a formal presentation by Croisdale-Appleby of his credentials to Michel.
The news website Politico reported, however, that the UK had yet to make the first step, known as a demande d’agréation (request for approval), ahead of such a ceremony.
Croisdale-Appleby, a former ambassador to Colombia, was deputy to David Frost, the UK’s chief negotiator in the recent trade and security talks. A UK government spokesperson declined to comment.
A European commission spokesperson said: “We are continuing our engagement, we are expecting and hoping that our friends in London will be able to find soon, a satisfactory solution based on the reciprocity, and the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations.
“When it comes to intentions and the details of the process, this is not really our hobby to communicate or to comment on ongoing processes from whatever angle. But the bottom line is that we hope the issue will be solved in a satisfactory way as soon as it was resolved in 142 other cases all around the world.”
Downing Street has said the lower status would not impact on the mission’s ability of their staff to carry out their job.
It is claimed that the chief difference is that Vale de Almeida would miss out on an audience with the Queen.