British officials will stop attending daily meetings involved in the bloc’s decision making to reinforce the warning the UK will leave the European Union on October 31. During his first statement in the House of Commons as Prime Minister on July 25, Boris Johnson vowed to “unshackle” British diplomacy from EU affairs as Brexit day looms. The latest stern move to put distance between the UK and Brussels is said to be in line with that, The Guardian has reported.
British diplomats had been expected to take their seats alongside remaining EU27 counterparts at upcoming EU working group meetings overseeing issues on security, the joint response to any future crises involving civilians, foreign affairs and the protection of consumer interests.
There are some 150 diplomats part of the UK’s permanent representation in Brussels during the drafting of EU positions and regulations.
It is not yet clear to what extent the UK’s withdrawal from EU structures will be before the Brexit deadline at the end of October, such as whether ministers would simply fail to show upper meetings over the next two-and-a-half months.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is scheduled to attend a meeting of his EU counterparts in Helsinki at the end of this month.
Brexit news: Britian will pull its diplomats out of crunch EU decision making meetings
Brexit news: Boris Johnson vowed to ‘unshackle’ British diplomacy from EU affairs
A Government spokesman said: “We are leaving the EU whatever the circumstances on October 31.
“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.”
But critics have lashed out at the proposed move from Britain to put more early distance between itself and Brussels.
They claim a walkout would leave the country blindsided on decisions and ultimately damage the national interest.
Haughty grandstanding like this undermines our place in the world and will be treated as a snub by our European neighbours and allies, who we should be working with to address shared challenges. Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill would be appalled
Luisa Porritt MEP, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament, told The Guardian: “Boris Johnson is unnecessarily sabotaging British influence in Europe.
“Haughty grandstanding like this undermines our place in the world and will be treated as a snub by our European neighbours and allies, who we should be working with to address shared challenges.
“Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill would be appalled by this short-sightedness.
“We should be leading in Europe, not undermining our own interests.”
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She added: “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.”
The UK has recently not played a prominent part in meetings deciding on elements around the future of the EU, but it has been a key player in others such as foreign affairs since the referendum in June 2016.
EU diplomats have been left dismayed by Britain’s latest position on Brussels and key meetings, where the UK’s official position has always been “important”.
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Brexit news: EU diplomats have been left disappointed at the move from Britain
Brexit news: Dominic Raab is due to attend a meeting of his EU counterparts in Helsinki
One told The Guardian: “They were once the most respected diplomatic corps here.
“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.”
Paul Adamson, a visiting professor at the Policy Institute, Kings College London, warned Britain will still need to be be able to at least try to influence Brussels’ decision making, and will need to invest significantly in public diplomacy to ensure this happens.
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He told The Guardian: “One of the many ironies of Brexit is that the UK Government will have to significantly increase its diplomatic presence in Brussels – as well as in key EU capitals – both to find out what is going on in meetings from which it will be excluded but also to try to influence the direction of EU policy making.
“Brussels decisions will continue to impact the UK.
“The Government and its agencies will have to invest heavily in public diplomacy to repair alliances and to forge new ones.
“The private sector, whether its business, civil society, the think-tank world and the like, will very much need to be part of this exercise.”
Brexit news; Theresa May had been looking at ways for Britain to influence EU decisions
In the weeks leading up to her resignation as Prime Minister, Theresa May’s Government had been looking at how to continue to find routes into the EU’s institutions so they would still be able to influence events from the outside.
But in his first statement as leader of the country last month, Mr Johnson said both sides need to recognise the “reality” the UK’s “national participation in the European union” was coming to an end.
He also claimed there were “very many brilliant officials trapped in meeting after meeting in Brussels and Luxembourg when they could be better deploying their talents in preparing to pioneer new trade deals and promoting a truly global Britain”.