UK to stop attending EU meetings

The UK government has decreed that UK officials will stop attending most EU meetings from 1st September so that they can focus on the country’s future relationship with the EU and other partners around the world.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has decided that from 1st September, UK officials and Ministers will now only attend EU meetings where the UK has a significant national interest in the outcome of discussions, such as on security.

The PM had stated in the House of Commons in July that, as a departing Member State, it makes sense to ‘unshackle’ officials from EU meetings to enable them to better focus their talents on immediate national priorities. According to Johnson, this includes, as the top priority, work on preparations for Brexit on 31st October and the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

“An incredible amount of time and effort goes into EU meetings with attendance just the tip of the iceberg,” said Secretary of State Steve Barclay. “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.”

The UK Government is adamant that the decision is not intended to frustrate the functioning of the EU, and has promised that the UK’s vote will be delegated in a way that does not obstruct the ongoing business of the remaining 27 EU members.

Where matters of ongoing national interest are being discussed, the UK will continue to be present until 31 October.

According to several news outlets, Finland has agreed to exercise the United Kingdom’s vote in EU meetings not attended by British representatives. Tytti Tuppurainen, the Finnish Minister for European Affairs, told Demokraatti that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson extended the request during a phone conversation with Prime Minister Antti Rinne.

Labour MP Martin Whitfield called the Tuesday announcement a “pitiful retreat” from the UK’s position “at the heart of European decision making”.

Article published 22nd August 2019