Cuts to the UK’s diplomatic mission in Brussels could undermine any remaining influence in the EU after Brexit, British MPs have warned.
When the UK was still part of the European Union, positions in Brussels were highly sought after by British Foreign Office officials. However, their position has deteriorated significantly since the referendum in June 2016.
After Brexit, the United Kingdom Embassy to the European Union was renamed the United Kingdom Mission to the European Union (UKMis) and the number of staff was reduced from 180 to 130. There has been high staff turnover since 2016 and further staff reductions are expected in the coming years.
In a new report published on Tuesday (October 24), British MPs on the House of Commons European scrutiny committee warned that “reducing the size of the UK mission could harm the UK’s ability to exert effective influence on behalf of its geopolitical interests”, according to the report.
The cross-party group has a conservative majority. Its chairman, Bill Cash, was one of Brexit’s earliest supporters. However, he expressed concern in his report about the scale of cuts to the UK’s EU work.
“Having diplomats who have a thorough understanding of how the EU works is as important to the whole British family now as it was when we were members,” said committee chair Bill Cash. “It is critical that we maintain current staffing levels.”
Lindsay Croysdale-Appleby, the head of the EU mission, holds the same diplomatic rank as the British ambassadors in Paris and Berlin, although it is lower than that of the head of mission in Washington DC. Meanwhile, the post of Consul General in Brussels has been abolished.
The review is based on information from British officials in Brussels, the Welsh Government and overseas territories. It is part of a wider assessment of the UK’s various diplomatic missions in the EU after Brexit and aims to assess how the new diplomatic missions are performing and how effectively they are achieving the UK’s strategic objectives.
“The report warned of a lack of transparency regarding the mission’s tasks and its overall costs […] And it did the job.” He noted the UK’s diplomatic cooperation with the EU’s diplomatic service, the European External Action Service and the EU Defense Cooperation Agreement, known as PESCO.
The British mission spends 20 to 25 percent of its time on issues unrelated to the UK’s withdrawal agreement or trade and cooperation agreement with Brussels, including foreign policy and defence, the report said.
“This work is not immediately known and we recommend that UKMs set out more clearly where non-recourse contract work such as PESCO fits in with the rest of its work,” the MPs said.
[Bearbeitet von Alice Taylor/Kjeld Neubert]
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