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LONDON — Britain is dealing with a diplomatic backlash over VIP journey preparations for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, with a number of world leaders now requesting particular permission to skip the proposed ‘park and trip’ scheme and arrive of their official automobiles.
International locations of various sizes are pushing again towards a Overseas, Commonwealth and Growth Workplace (FCDO) requirement that almost all international heads of state attending the funeral on Monday park their automobiles at a web site in west London, and journey to the occasion at Westminster Abbey on shared coaches supplied by the U.Okay. authorities.
Diplomats from 5 international locations, together with some inside the G7 group of most industrialized nations, informed POLITICO they need exceptions for his or her leaders, citing previous age or safety causes.
They’ve been emboldened by remarks from the prime minister’s official spokesman Monday, who informed reporters that in some circumstances the ‘no automotive’ edict would the truth is be “steering” solely, and that “preparations for leaders, together with how they journey, will range relying on particular person circumstances.”
The journey protocol, despatched to abroad embassies on the weekend and obtained by POLITICO, wouldn’t apply to leaders equivalent to U.S. President Joe Biden, a U.Okay. authorities supply later confirmed to the Occasions. Biden is predicted to reach on the funeral in his armored limousine, sometimes called ‘The Beast.’ Different leaders with particular safety necessities, equivalent to President Isaac Herzog of Israel, is also allowed to convey their very own transport, the identical U.Okay. supply mentioned.
However abroad diplomats based mostly in London are unimpressed with the two-tier system, and are actually clamoring to make sure their very own heads of state get the identical therapy as Biden and keep away from what — for some — is the perceived indignity of arriving on a bus with ‘lesser’ nations.
“I’m attempting to have ours exempted from the bus,” one U.Okay.-based ambassador admitted, “however not having a lot luck up to now.”
Diplomats say the FCDO has not defined the standards by which sure leaders might be allowed to skip the shared bus journey from London’s West Finish. Envoys are approaching the division on to request exceptions, however few, if any, have obtained a proper response.
“Our president is pleased to go by bus if informed so, however he’s over 80, so if there’s a strategy to keep away from it, we’ll attempt,” one other senior diplomat mentioned.
“Appreciable nervousness” additionally exists amongst leaders in regards to the doable identification of their fellow passengers upon the shared VIP coaches, a 3rd diplomat warned. The FCDO held a briefing Tuesday with representatives from all international locations planning to ship leaders to the funeral, however was unable to elucidate how the coach seating plans might be determined.
One other ambassador mentioned the FCDO briefing was welcome however had raised “extra questions than solutions,” including: “FCDO informed us to not have many expectations, to not be too bold, and count on totally different issues. The logistical problem is big … They’re attempting to persuade us to take the buses, saying it’s a lot simpler to handle all the things.”
Some international diplomats are at the very least accustomed to shared coach preparations from earlier mass occasions organized by the U.Okay., together with the U.N. COP26 local weather summit in Glasgow final yr, and the queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations at St Paul’s Cathedral.
However a 3rd ambassador, representing a European nation whose chief doesn’t object to taking the bus, mentioned some heads of state not used to shared coach journey will see the plan as a problem to their “masculinity” — and that persuading them to simply accept the FCDO’s preparations might be no simple process.
“When you don’t know your head of state properly, or whether or not they’d settle for these items, it may be very troublesome for the ambassadors,” the envoy mentioned. “And it’s very troublesome for the FCDO — as a result of the place do you draw the road?”