Negotiations are still “ongoing” over granting full diplomatic status to the European Union’s ambassador to the UK, Downing Street has said.
Joao Vale de Almeida took up his post as Brussel’s first ambassador to London last spring after Britain’s exit from the bloc was ratified, but he was denied formal recognition while cross-Channel trade negotiations were under way.
Reports have suggested that Mr Vale de Almeida, however, was on the verge of having his status upgraded following the European Parliament’s decision to ratify post-Brexit trade terms this week.
The deal, thrashed out by the EU and UK government over months of difficult negotiations, was approved by MEPs by 660 votes to five, with 32 abstentions.
There are a few remaining formalities that need to be completed before the Brexit deal struck on Christmas Eve last year is finally ratified.
Facing questions on the ambassador’s status on Thursday, the British prime minister’s official spokesman said: “I’ve seen the reports on that.
“Negotiations on this issue are ongoing, so I’m not going to pre-empt that.
“We are engaging with the EU on the long-term arrangements for the delegation.
“It is important to say that, regardless of the agreement reached, the EU, its delegation staff, will continue to receive the privileges and immunities necessary to enable them to carry out their work in the UK effectively.”
Mr Vale de Almeida was asked about the decision not to afford him the same status as national ambassadors during an event with the Institute for Government on Wednesday.
The Portuguese diplomat said that discussions were still taking place and that he was “confident that we will find a solution that is in line with international practice”.
He added: “It is about recognition. It is about respect. It is about the formalities of diplomatic life and that is an important aspect.
“I am very hopeful that we can soon come to an understanding on how to organise this diplomatic side of our relationship.
“Once that is the case, we will be in a better position to contribute to a constructive relationship.”