In a further demonstration of diplomatic coldness between Brussels and London, EU officials have been told not to hold meetings with their British counterparts unless they are strictly related to the war in Ukraine or “legally required“.
In a memo distributed to senior European Commission officials seen by EURACTIV, Commission Secretary-General Ilze Juhansone asked that “all Directorates-General and all Services inform the General Secretariat of any request for bilateral meetings with UK officials or stakeholders, made or received, regardless of the hierarchical level“.
These meetings should only take place if they are “legally required“, if they relate to the implementation of the withdrawal agreement or if they are strictly connected with the war in Ukraine.
“The refusal of a request for a meeting is justified by the latest developments in the relationship between the EU and the United Kingdomadded the senior Commission official.
Since the entry into force in 2021 of the new trade and cooperation agreement governing relations between the EU and the UK, Brussels and London have been at odds over a number of issues. In particular, with regard to the Protocol on the access of Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom to the Horizon Europe research programme, the two parties have launched infringement procedures.
At a meeting of the UK-EU Parliamentary Partnership Assembly (PPA) in London earlier this week, Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič insisted that he did not think the EU and the UK were “far from each otherto solve the implementation of the protocol.
“If there is political will, I am sure we can solve the problem in a few weeks, because our negotiating team knows these issues from all angles.“, he declared.
The statement also referred to the UK government’s bill, currently before parliament, which would give ministers the power to reject the Northern Ireland protocol. If passed, this bill would represent “a clear breach of the Withdrawal Agreement“and”would constitute an unprecedented breach of international obligations and trustsaid Mrs. Johansone.
“Requests should only be sent or accepted after receiving the opinion of the General Secretariat.“, she concluded.