UK’s role in EU spat over ambassador’s post-Brexit status branded ‘vindictive’ in the Lords

Liberal Democrat Baroness Ludford speaking in House of Lords

Liberal Democrat Baroness Ludford speaking in House of Lords - Credit:

The UK’s role in a diplomatic row with the EU over the status of the bloc’s ambassador in London has been branded “vindictive” and “offensive” in the Lords.

Foreign office minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said the government continued to engage with the EU on the long-term arrangements for the EU delegation.

Lord Ahmad told peers that he did not wish to pre-empt those talks and insisted the government wanted a relationship based on “friendly cooperation” with the EU.

But the minister faced criticism of the government’s stance in the spat from both sides of the House at question time.

Labour former cabinet minister Lord Reid of Cardowan said the initial decision not to grant full status to the ambassador would be seen by the rest of the international community as “peevish and vindictive”.

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Lord Reid urged ministers to “reverse this blunder and do the honourable thing”.

Lord Ahmad said the No 10 continued to negotiate and work with the EU on the long term arrangements and wanted an “optimum outcome” which worked for both sides.

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Tory Baroness Hooper said the decision was “gratuitously offensive” not only to Brussels and the EU states but also to Portugal as the ambassador was a Portuguese diplomat.

She asked what benefit this “unnecessary action” could bring for Britain.

Lord Ahmad said he could not pre-empt discussions with the EU but assured peers that the EU delegation would have all the privileges and immunities they needed to “function effectively”.

It emerged last week that ambassador Joao Vale de Almeida had not been given the same status as ambassadors sent by national governments.

MORE: Michel Barnier tells UK to be 'very careful' in Brexit diplomatic status row

de Almeida is the EU’s first ambassador in London after the UK’s departure from the bloc.

In the Lords, Liberal Democrat Baroness Ludford suggested the government was “squandering goodwill” and acting in a “petty” fashion.

Lord Ahmad said the government wanted the UK to be the “best ally and the best partner to the EU”.

Tory former cabinet minister Lord King of Bridgwater urged ministers to sort the issue out as quickly as possible “so we live up to intention of being the best friend and ally” of the EU.

Former diplomat Lord Jay of Ewelme said it was time to put aside “gesture politics” and focus on developing relations necessary to make a success of the G7 summit.

Labour’s Lord Liddle questioned even the need for discussions on the ambassador’s status and accused the Foreign Secretary of searching for “cheap points” that will go down well with Brexiteer backbenchers.

Lord Ahmad denied this, insisting Dominic Raab had close working partnerships and friendships across the EU.

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