by Benjamin Fox
EU officials have been told not to hold meetings with UK counterparts unless they are strictly related to the war in Ukraine or are ‘legally mandatory’, in the latest indication of frosty relations between Brussels and London.
In a note circulated to senior European Commission officials, which was seen by EURACTIV, the Secretary-General of the Commission Ilze Juhansone requested that “all Directorates-General and Services inform the Secretariat-General of any requests for bilateral meetings with United Kingdom officials or United Kingdom stakeholders to be made or that have been received, irrespective of the level of seniority.”
Meetings should only take place if they are “legally mandatory”, relate to the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, or relate strictly to the war in Ukraine.
“Declining a meeting request should be explained on the basis of the recent developments in the EU-United Kingdom relations,” the Commission’s top civil servant added.
Brussels and London have been at loggerheads over a number of issues since the new Trade and Cooperation Agreement governing EU-UK relations came into force in 2021, including the Northern Ireland protocol and UK access to the Horizon Europe research programme, with both sides having launched infringement proceedings against the other.
However, at a meeting of the UK-EU Parliamentary Partnership Assembly (PPA) in London earlier this week, Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic insisted that he did not believe the EU and the UK were “worlds apart” on resolving the implementation of the protocol.
“If there is political will, I’m sure that we can sort it out within a couple of weeks because our negotiating teams know these topics from all angles,” he said.
The communique also refers to the government bill currently making its way through the UK parliament, which would give ministers the power to override the Northern Ireland protocol, If adopted, the bill would represent “a clear violation of the Withdrawal Agreement” and “constitute an unprecedented breach of international obligations and trust,” Juhansone stated.
“Requests should be sent, or requests should be accepted, only once the view of the Secretariat-General has been communicated,” she concluded.
*first published: Euractiv.com