On his fourth visit to Scotland as EU ambassador to the UK, João Vale de Almeida highlighted the importance of “unity” during a global crisis as the war in Ukraine rages on.
Ambassador Almeida led a lecture titled The European Union in a Changing World, at the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
The ambassador said the EU and the UK had gone through a “traumatic divorce” in the form of Brexit as he said he “hoped” for a “re-marriage” between the two despite “major issues”.
The diplomat’s comments on Tuesday came as the First Minister of Scotland announced plans to hold an independence referendum in October 2023.
Nicola Sturgeon is currently pushing for the Supreme Court to rule on a bill to set this up and, if this does not happen, she said the SNP would treat the next general election as a “de facto referendum.”
Ms Sturgeon stressed she believes it is a “democratic right” for Scotland to have an independence referendum.
Asked if he agreed with Ms Sturgeon, Almeida did not comment but pointed to the importance of such talks.
Speaking in Edinburgh the diplomat said: “As ambassador to the United Kingdom, I will not interfere with internal matters of the UK so I will not comment on another speech made today.
“It is certainly an important one.”
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However, one area the ambassador was not holding back on were his views on Boris Johnson introducing new legislation to give ministers the power to scrap parts of the Northern Ireland protocol.
The UK Prime Minister said he believes legislation on the post-Brexit deal between the UK and the EU could be passed by the end of the year with MPs to vote on Monday on the legislation.
The EU ambassador said: “The most acute situation [of conflict between the UK and EU] is linked to the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“Otherwise, the trading co-operation agreement with its bumps in the road is being implemented more or less in a smooth way.
“Of course, nothing will be like before Brexit and we are co-operating quite well on Ukraine and Russia.
“But the adverse plan around the protocol risks affecting the entirety of our relationship.
“It is not only about sausages across the Irish sea, it is about mutual trust and the capacity this dispute can have to disrupt the overall climate.”
MPs will vote on Monday on new legislation to give ministers the power to scrap parts of the post-Brexit deal between the UK and the EU.
However, Almeida called on the UK government to “abandon” an “attempt to unilaterally settle the dispute” with what the EU believes is a “clear breach of international law”.
He asked Boris Johnson to engage with the EU to find “jointly agreed solutions”.
The ambassador said: “We are allies, we are neighbors, we are friends. In today’s world, this is absolutely crucial.
“However, our relationship has been problematic. I think we have to start by realizing we went through a traumatic divorce and the dust has not yet settled.”