British diplomats to quit EU’s institutional structures
This would however leave the UK blindsided on decisions and ultimately damage the national interest, critics claimEuropost
British diplomats are planning on pulling out from the EU’s institutional structures of power in Brussels within days under plans being drawn up by Downing Street, The Guardian reports citing unnamed sources. The move under discussion is said by UK officials to be in line with Boris Johnson’s first statement in the House of Commons, in which he said he would “unshackle” British diplomacy from EU affairs.
As the Guardian stresses, the move is also a representation of UK's attempt to reinforce the message that it is leaving the EU by 31 October, “do or die”.
“We are leaving the EU whatever the circumstances on 31 October. It therefore makes sense to review our attendance at EU meetings to make sure we are making the best use of government time. This process is ongoing,” a government spokesman said.
Critics however have countered that the symbolic walkout would merely leave the UK blindsided on decisions and ultimately damage the national interest.
There are about 150 diplomats in the UK’s permanent representation in Brussels lobbying for British interests during the drafting of EU positions and regulations. And EU working group meetings at which British diplomats were expected to take their seats alongside the other 27 Member States are set to deal with issues on security, the pan-European response to any future crises involving civilians, foreign affairs and the protection of consumers interests.
Critics have thus countered that the symbolic walkout would merely leave the UK blindsided on decisions and ultimately damage the national interest, even though it is not yet clear how far the UK’s withdrawal from the EU structures would go before 31 October. It is also not known whether ministers or the UK’s permanent representative in the EU would ultimately fail to show up for meetings in September and October.
Luisa Porritt MEP, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats in the European parliament, said: “Boris Johnson is unnecessarily sabotaging British influence in Europe."
“To be outside the room while our shared security interests are being discussed shows weakness and pettiness, not strength. Brexit is not inevitable; this national humiliation must end alongside this rotten Conservative government,” she added.
While the UK has not played its usual full role in meetings in areas on the future of the EU, including in discussions on the bloc’s budget, it has been an active player in other fields such as foreign affairs since the Brexit referendum in 2016. Therefore, EU diplomats said they would regret any decision by the British government to prematurely leave the Brussels institutions where the UK diplomats have built up a strong reputation.
“They were once the most respected diplomatic corps here,” one told The Guardian. “That was diminished during David Cameron’s government but the UK representative’s position was always important. Even in areas where the UK did not have a strong national stance, they would have ideas to solve a problem."