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A week of Alibi Diplomacy after UK’s veto in Brussels

Published on 13 December 2011
Updated on 19 March 2024

The end of the last week was marked by the UK’s veto of the deal agreed by everybody else in the EU family (23+3). To be left alone around the negotiation table is the worst that can happen to any country, short of not being at the table at all, which may happen to the UK after Friday’s decision. How did this happen to one of the best and most professional diplomatic services in the world? Here are a few reflections…

First, in some cases, regardless of diplomatic skills, political differences cannot be overcome easily. Such situations are rare, but they exist.

Second, diplomacy requires time. Faced by pressures from the financial market, the EU had to act ‘yesterday’. It did not leave the UK enough time for a diplomatic manoeuvre that would have softened its decision or ultimately allowed it to devise a ‘refusal by delay’.

Third, and probably most surprising, the UK was not provided with some sort of face-saving exit strategy, something which could, perhaps, be described as ‘alibi diplomacy’.

Any other thoughts and reflection?

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