Britain pulling officials and diplomats from Finland’s EU meetings

The UK government announced on Tuesday that it won't be sending any representatives to EU meetings from 1st September, except in cases of national security.

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File picture of EU meeting at Finlandia Hall Helsinki, July 2019 / Credit: Jussi Toivanen, VNK

British Government Ministers, diplomats and other officials are set to stop attending EU meetings including events in Helsinki and Brussels organised by Finland during its Presidency of the European Council.

Boris Johnson’s government made the announcement on Tuesday afternoon, saying that from 1st September Britain will only be represented at EU meetings “where the UK has a significant national interest in the outcome of discussions, such as on security.”

It’s likely that Finnish officials don’t yet know which meetings the UK will attend, and which they won’t, however the British government has said that Finland will take the UK’s vote at EU meetings where there are no British officials present.

Although the UK has already confirmed its attendance at the upcoming ‘Gymnich’ meeting of foreign ministers in Helsinki on 28th August, other ministerial meetings held in Finland 1st September might not have any British representation including meetings of economic and financial affairs ministers, and agriculture ministers.

Credit: Pixabay / Creative Commons License

“An incredible amount of time and effort goes into EU meetings with attendance just the tip of the iceberg. Our diligent, world-class officials also spend many hours preparing for them whether in reading the necessary papers or working on briefings” says Britain’s Brexit Minister Steve Barclay in a statement.

“From now on we will only go to the meetings that really matter, reducing attendance by over half and saving hundreds of hours. This will free up time for Ministers and their officials to get on with preparing for our departure on October 31 and seizing the opportunities that lie ahead” he says.

In addition to Helsinki meetings which are hosted at Finlandia Hall, Finnish diplomats are scheduled to chair dozens of working meetings in Brussels during September and October, before the UK departure from the EU, but which might also not have any British representatives.