ACCORDING to the BBC's Today Programme, the Foreign Office has told Ecuador that Britain has the right, under legislation passed in the 1980s for a one-off purpose only, and unknown to any of the interviewees on the programme (including the ex ambassador to Moscow), to remove diplomatic status from their London embassy, enter it by force, and arrest Mr Assange.
It is certainly true that Mr Assange is on the run from the English police, having broken the conditions of his bail and "gone abroad" as it were, and that that makes him a criminal in English law. But I wonder if Willie Hague is quite aware of the gravity of what he is considering.
According to the international Conventions on Diplomatic Relations, diplomatic missions are considered to be a part of the territory of a foreign state and cannot be violated by the host state for (almost) any reason.
It seems that Britain, quite rightly in my opinion, introduced law at the time of the siege in the Libyan mission in London, which allowed the SAS to storm the building after Yvonne Fletcher was shot from its windows. That was, however, an example of an embassy building being used for something well out-with the terms of the convention, and thus, arguably, the action was justified.
However, to use it in a situation where someone has sought refuge from what they perceive to be a political use of extradition is surely a error of monumental proportions.
My understanding of the reason that Sweden wishes to charge Assange is that he allegedly had consensual sex with a Swedish woman, which, at some point became non-consensual, and that this may have involved the use or otherwise of condoms. In any case, it is doubtful that this would be considered a crime in the UK, and it is a question of one persons word against that of another (there only being two people involved in the sex).
Assange fears that he will be further extradited from Sweden to the USA where the authorities want to talk to him about leaking a fair few of their (and the UK's) dirty and embarrassing little secrets.
Whatever the truth of all that is, and aware as I am that everyone who is anyone in London is now on in Tuscany, Monte Carlo or aboard the yachts of Russian oligarchs, I can't imagine that Hague hasn't been briefed that if he does violate the Ecuadorian Embassy, no British diplomat will ever able to do his job again and certainly none will ever be safe again.
The problem now, it seems to me, is that having indicated that they can do it, it will look like a climb down if Ecuador do not give the man up and the English police do not carry out the FO threat.
Another cock up?