Saturday, October 24, 2020

EU-Botswana office won’t lay off British staff

Owing to a peculiar set of circumstances, the European Union Delegation to Botswana and Southern African Development Community will not be shedding British staff as a result of Brexit. With a majority of Britons having voted to leave the European Union, one natural outcome is the eventual excision of United Kingdom citizens from the employ of the regional politico-economic union. With UK not having initiated formal exit protocols through invoking Article 50, such development is a little far down the road but is definitely coming.

Alexander Baum, the EU Ambassador to Botswana and SADC, says that his office “doesn’t really have UK staff”, a statement he qualifies by explaining that there is only one British staff member who is “de facto double nationality.” The other nationality is of an EU member state which will qualify that staff member to continue working for the EU.

On the whole, Brexit will not be detrimental to British nationals who work in other EU offices. This group also has the option of applying for the citizenship of other EU countries if they so wish.

“It’s interesting that some governments in Europe have been rather relaxed and have offered citizenship to British people,” says Baum citing as an example Belgium which has offered such citizenship to Britons who have lived for a long time in places in Brussels (where the EU is headquartered) and Luxemburg. “Nobody knows how this will work out but the bottom line is that there is no immediate threat staff. I think the institution will remain as loyal as it can to its staff. Again, there is an [exit] agreement to be worked out and how the staff will feature in it is yet to be determined. It’s speculative at this stage to say whether there are issues or not.”

Recasting this particular issue in a different context, the ambassador says that “even if we had 10 British staff members here, it would still not make a big difference.” The reasons he gives for the latter are the anticipated time frame of two years of negotiations and the normal rotation of national staff.

“Of course we care a lot about our colleagues from the UK but externally it’s a non-issue. The institution has been clear: it wants to be as loyal as it can to its British employees,” Baum says.

It also turns out that unlike other regional configurations, EU doesn’t have a country quota system for personnel deployment. The result has been that some countries are over-represented while others are under-represented. According to Baum, the percentage of British nationals who work for the EU in total is relatively low.

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