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UK diplomat plays downs delays to naming date for major European summit

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the European Political Community summit in 2023 (Carl Court/PA)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the European Political Community summit in 2023 (Carl Court/PA)

The UK’s ambassador to the EU has played down reports of delays by the Government in picking a date for a meeting of the European Political Community in the first half of the year.

A report in the Financial Times said some EU diplomats have linked a failure to pin down a date for the summit to debates inside Downing Street about the timing of a general election and a failure to rule out completely a spring poll.

Originally an idea of Emmanuel Macron’s and now something of regular part of the political calendar, the European Political Community includes countries both inside and outside the EU.

The UK has long been scheduled to host a gathering in 2024.

Lindsay Croisdale-Appleby, appearing at an event hosted by the UK in a Changing Europe think tank, said the “reality” was “when you look at the international calendar, it is a very busy six months”.

Pointing to several scheduled European Council meetings as well as a major Nato gathering in Washington, he said the discussions inside Government were “when do we organise the summit so it can really add value?”.

“We are committed to the format of the EPC but we need to show on an ongoing basis the meetings are a success and deliver good quality outcomes.”

He said the Government was talking to allies both in and outside the EU but “haven’t reached a conclusion on that yet”.

But he insisted the UK was “capable” of hosting a major European summit in a matter of months.

Pedro Serrano, the EU’s ambassador to the United Kingdom and who appeared at the same event, suggested that regardless of the number of European Council meetings leaders had agreed to host two summits a year.

EU leaders, he said, “are very happy to attend an EPC and are looking forward to the convening of this meeting by the UK”.

Downing Street said the announcement on the date would come in “due course”.