Johnson Triggers Row With EU Over Envoy’s Status in London

Boris Johnson’s decision not to grant full diplomatic status to the European Union’s ambassador in London triggered a row that threatens to undermine relations with the bloc, weeks after both sides signed a free-trade agreement to conclude the Brexit process.

The EU said envoy Joao Vale de Almeida has not been granted the same status as other ambassadors and accused the British government of contravening international convention by treating it differently to a nation state. Johnson’s move was dubbed “petty” by his own Conservative Party colleague Tobias Ellwood, who chairs Parliament’s defense committee.

Johnson Triggers Row With EU Over Envoy’s Status in London

“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,” Peter Stano, the EU’s foreign-policy spokesperson, said in an emailed statement Thursday. The U.K. “was cognizant and supportive of this status while it was a member of the European Union,” he said.

The U.K. ended its membership of the EU’s single market and customs union on Dec. 31, after months of tortuous negotiations concluded with a trade deal agreed on Christmas Eve. Johnson himself has conceded the agreement falls short of what he wanted in key areas, including on financial services, where talks are ongoing to improve market access.

The government is unwilling to grant the EU delegation full diplomatic status to avoid setting a precedent that would be applicable to other international bodies, the BBC reported, without saying where it obtained the information.

The U.K. “continues to engage” with the EU on the issue, Johnson’s spokesman, Jamie Davies, told reporters. “The EU, its delegation and staff will receive the privileges and immunity necessary to carry out their work in the U.K.”

Stano said the EU’s 143 delegations and staff around the world -- “without exception” -- have been granted status equivalent to national embassies under the Vienna Convention, which governs the rules of international diplomacy and gives staff immunity from detention, criminal jurisdiction and taxation.

Later on Thursday the U.K. appointed one of its Brexit specialists to be its envoy to the EU. Lindsay Croisdale-Appleby, a career diplomat, said in a statement he is “delighted” to lead the U.K.’s mission in Brussels and to “develop a new bilateral partnership.”

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