We're ready, even if you're not! Boris Johnson sends Brexit message to EU with shock ploy
British diplomats have been told their attendance at European Union meetings, which shape the bloc’s decision-making processes, will be reviewed in the coming days. They have been told by Downing Street that the plan will free up their time to ensure Brexit is delivered by October 31. Instead, diplomats posted in Brussels and Luxembourg will be expected to help promote a “truly global Britain”.
While concrete plans are yet to be drawn up, the decision is part of Mr Johnson’s effort to convey to Brussels that he is serious about leaving the EU at the end of October, Express.co.uk understands.
Brussels expects the move to undo the hard work put in by Theresa May’s Government to ensure that British officials played a vital role in EU meetings until Brexit was delivered.
Critics have claimed that Mr Johnson is “reducing Britain’s influence” and making the country weaker by pulling officials out of EU meetings.
Currently, UK officials attend daily dozens of behind-closed-doors working groups that shape the EU’s decision-making process.
Boris Johnson is planning to pull UK officials out of EU meetings
Boris Johnson wants British diplomats to instead promote a ‘global Britain’
The European Council bodies have representatives from each EU capital, apart from Article 50 discussions, and prepare policies for government ministers and leaders.
There are also a number of ministerial and ambassador-level meetings already in the diary ahead of the October European Council summit.
They do the heavy-lifting ahead of the high-profile leadership summits, where final EU decisions are made.
Under Mr Johnson’s plans, British participation at the events could be limited – but it remains uncertain to what extent appearances will be cancelled.
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There are currently around 150 British diplomats operating in Brussels, fighting for the country’s interests in EU meetings.
They have played an active role in EU decision-making, and have even been criticising for ushering through policies that they would have traditionally blocked.
A UK source told Express.co.uk: “We’ve been told we are leaving the EU in all circumstances on October 31.
“Therefore makes sense to review our attendance at EU meetings to make sure we are making the best use of Government time.
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Sir Tim Barrow (L), the UK’s ambassador to the EU, could abandon Brussels decision-making meetings
Dominic Raab is expected to attend an EU foreign affairs meeting in Helsinki
“But there no decisions yet on exactly what this means.”
Sir Tim Barrow, the UK’s permanent representative to the EU, will likely be summoned to a series of meetings in the build up to the October European Council summit in Brussels.
And Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has made clear that he will meeting his EU counterparts at an informal get-together at the end of August in Helsinki.
The exact repercussions of failing to attend meetings, however, are widely unknown by those in the UK or EU.
Brussels believes a lack of British representation in meetings is a sign that the Government does not actually want to conclude a Brexit deal.
An EU diplomat said: “It does make things easier for all sides. You can’t keep living in the same house forever once you’ve decided to file for divorce.
“It’s a pity though: it will not further the chances of a deal and once more underlined that the Johnson administration is not seeking one.
“Without eyes and ears on the ground you are not serious about wanting to achieve a deal.”
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David Frost, the Prime Minister’s top Europe adviser, is also expected to hold his own series of meetings with EU officials in the coming days as part of the Brexit process.
Mr Johnson made reference to his plot to boycott EU meetings during his first outing in the House of Commons as Prime Minister on July 25.
He suggested that there are “very many brilliant officials trapped in meeting after meeting in Brussels and Luxembourg”.
He told MPs that they would be “unshackled” to start work on delivering Brexit with immediate effect.
Critics say Boris Johnson’s plan will diminish Britain’s European influence
“There are 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 promising a truly global Britain,” Mr Johnson said.
“I want to start unshackling our officials to understand this new mission right away.”
Chris Davies, a pro-Brussels Liberal Democrat MEP, said the Prime Minister should instead looking to be a “strong leader” in Europe instead of pulling officials out of meetings.
He said: “Step by step, Boris is reducing Britain’s influence, making us less able to shape policies that are bound to affect us.
“A very strong country should be a leader in Europe, not a leaver.
“People did not vote in the 2016 referendum to make this country weaker, but that is the outcome the Conservatives are delivering.”
The European Commission refused to speculate on UK officials pulling out of meetings discussing the Brussels-based executive’s proposals.
A spokesman said: “We always stand ready and the doors remain open.”