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Academics urge No 10 to ‘rethink’ refusal to grant EU ambassador in London full diplomatic status

EU Ambassador to the UK, Portuguese diplomat Joao Vale de Almeida (left) arriving at Europe House in Westminster, London. - Credit: PA

Academics have urged Number 10 to grant the EU ambassador in London full diplomatic status, warning failure to do so could be emboldening Europe’s enemies.

Britain has so far refused to grant the ambassador full status, arguing the EU is an organisation rather than a country.

But experts are urging a government rethink, warning the ongoing rift is emboldening Europe’s enemies such as Russia.

“We should just recognise the EU ambassador and get past that issue,” Dr Robert Saunders told a Chatham House think tank webinar. “We have a relationship with the EU, so it doesn’t seem unreasonable that we should have diplomatic representation. We just need to park this issue as quickly as we can if we’re going to move into a more constructive relationship.”

Cambridge University Prof Brendan Simms suggested the EU have one representative for the entire bloc and withdrawing individual member state embassies.

He said: “Personally, I would actually turn it around, I would say, you the European Union have got to explain to us what the function of the ambassador is, if he is to have any meaningful function then we should only have an EU ambassador and no national (European) representatives. And the UK would only be represented in Brussels, and not in the member states.”

He later added: “On every issue that really mattered to the UK over the last few years, like Northern Ireland, trade policy and so on, it has been dealing with the European Union and that is the body with which the United Kingdom should be dealing with.”

Full diplomatic status grants immunity from taxation and prosecution, among other rights, to ambassadors under the Vienna Convention.

Despite the academics’ remarks, the British government is still refusing to grant full diplomatic status to Joao Vale de Almeida, the 27-nation EU’s envoy to the UK.

In a statement to The National, a Foreign Office spokesman said: “We continue to engage with the EU on the long-term arrangements for the EU Delegation to the UK. The EU, its Delegation and staff will continue to receive the privileges and immunities necessary to enable them to carry out their work in the UK effectively.”