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UK recruits diplomats in bid to boost EU influence

By Arj Singh

Britain is recruiting 50 more diplomats to "beef up" the country's bilateral influence in the European Union after Brexit, Boris Johnson has announced.

The Foreign Secretary said the extra envoys would cost around £8m a year and the first wave are understood to be in their posts already.

Discussing the traditional way the UK has dealt with European countries, he told the Foreign Affairs Committee: "We tended to put all our eggs in the Brussels basket and we tended to think that a lot of bilateral diplomacy, particularly with very, very important partners such as France and Germany, could be conducted through that prism and through that optic."

Mr Johnson said Britain also thought it could deal with smaller EU countries through Brussels and the extra staff, alongside the upgrading of seven European ambassadors to senior management level, would "pay dividends".

"It was great to be able to see everybody at once in the EU context, and by the way we will continue one way or the other to see everybody in the EU context," he said.

Mr Johnson told MPs it was not legally possible to start formal negotiations for trade deals while the UK was still in the EU but said "post-March 2019 we will be able to do formal negotiations about free trade deals".

He added: "What we can do is look at it in principle."

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