The rather gruesome eurosceptic blog EU Referendum likes to think they have information to back up their conspiracy theories about the EU. Yet a post today about FCO diplomatic cuts shows how little they actually know:

Interestingly, no mention is made of the embassy in Brussels (pictured) – which deals mainly with EU institutions – so the indications are that it is just representation in the major member state countries that is being affected.

No, that’s not what the British Embassy in Brussels does. It’s job is for relations with the Belgian government, just as an embassy in Helsinki is for relations with the Finnish government. I don’t know exactly how small the embassy in Brussels is, but I would guess it numbers something less than 30 staff on UK FCO terms of employment.

Of far more concern is that EU Referendum seems to be unaware that it is the much larger and more important UK mission in Brussels (more than 100 people) – the UK Permanent Representation to the EU institutions (UKRep) – that does the main work on UK-EU relations. Details of most of its staff can be found at the UKRep website. While Britain remains a member state of the EU it is vital that this office is well staffed – how else could you get eurosceptic positions across in Brussels without a decently manned office of people to do it for you? Even Margaret Thatcher and John Major saw the value of UKRep, although the present government maybe does not as it has abolished mothballed the European Fast Stream.

Anyway, check the facts before you start to believe the conspiracy…

3 Comments

  1. rose22

    yep, agree with you there Jon.
    The EP is a key place for UKRep staff – many that you see there will be from FCO or describe themselves as being so because UKRep is an FCO post and they’ll be loaned there from other government departments as sector experts…
    I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some contact from the bilateral embassy but would expect this to be on specific bilateral issues because the British Embassy is designed to be bilateral with Belgium while the UK Permanent Representation to the EU is the bilateral embassy equivalent for the EU institutions.
    This means UKRep staff are also trying to keep up relations with the Commission and their equivalents from other member states who attend the working groups in the Council. And they try to ensure that the real policy experts from the UK (civil service or others from sectors affected by legislation) visit the MEPs too to talk about the real life impacts of legislation.
    It’s generally acknowledged that they’re effective operators, glad Richard saw many at the EP!

  2. Ah, well, yes I have worked in the Parliament actually, and came across a sum total of zero staff from the Embassy when I worked there (for a MEP), but many staff from UKRep. In fact UKRep has a whole section just for relations with the EP…

  3. Yes, do check your facts Jon. Work in the EU Parliament for a little while and see how many FCO personnel you meet there, most of whom are based in the Embassy, conveniently just round the corner and just up the road from the commission offices.

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