João Vale de Almeida will be the European Union’s ambassador to the U.K. after Brexit, according to two EU officials and one EU diplomat.
The senior diplomat from Portugal previously served as the EU’s envoy to the United Nations and to the U.S., and has a decades-long career in the EU, including being a Commission director general and former President José Manuel Barroso’s chief of cabinet.
Vale de Almeida was the frontrunner for the job, as reported in POLITICO Brussels Playbook last year.
At the end of last year, Vale de Almeida was back in Brussels and speculating on Twitter about his next move.
He’ll be heading up a delegation that will start work on February 1.
On Brexit Day, January 31, the Commission’s office in London will close down and the day after, the new EU delegation, modeled on its diplomatic mission to Washington, will spring up in its place.
The delegation will effectively be an embassy run by the European External Action Service, the EU’s foreign policy arm.
It will stay in the Commission’s current base at 32 Smith Square in Westminster. The building — Europe House — served as the Conservative Party’s headquarters for half a century.
“The preparations for the opening of the new EU delegation to the United Kingdom are currently being finalized,” an EU spokesperson said.
The new embassy will initially employ 26 people from both the EEAS and the Commission, according to the spokesperson. That will make it just under one-third of the size of the EU’s delegation to Washington, which has around 90 staff — although only 30 of them are European diplomats.
The embassy’s final mandate will be decided in Brussels next week.
“The EU Delegation to the United Kingdom will support the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement as well as the negotiation process related to the future EU-U.K. relationship,” as well as provide diplomatic representation for the EU, according to the spokesperson.
Just 17 people currently work at the Commission’s representation in London, some of whom will transfer over to the embassy on February 1. Its size has been reduced considerably over the past three years, with staff departing amid uncertainty about the future relationship between the U.K. and EU.
New staff who were recruited to join the EU delegation to London and were preparing to start work in the spring — when the U.K. was originally supposed to be leaving — have been forced to wait almost a year because of repeated delays to the exit.