Michel Barnier appointed EU chief negotiator on Brexit

Former European Commissioner to lead article 50 negotiations.

Former European Commissioner Michel Barnier appointed chief Brexit negotiator | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

By Julie Levy-Abegnoli

27 Jul 2016


Former European internal market and services Commissioner Michel Barnier has been appointed Chief Negotiator in charge of the preparation and conduct of the negotiations with the United Kingdom under article 50, it was announced today.

Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty provides the legal basis for formally exiting the EU. However, the UK, which last June voted to leave the bloc, has yet to invoke the article, with British Prime Minister Theresa May saying this would likely not happen before the end of this year. EU heads of state, as well as the European Commission, have warned that there will be no negotiations on Britain's new relationship with the EU until it formally triggers article 50.

Barnier will report directly to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and will be assisted by Directors-General working on issues linked to the negotiations. 


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Juncker said, "I am very glad that my friend Michel Barnier accepted this important and challenging task. I wanted an experienced politician for this difficult job. Michel is a skilled negotiator with rich experience in major policy areas relevant to the negotiations, namely as Minister for foreign affairs and for agriculture, and as member of the Commission, in charge of regional policy, institutional reforms and of internal market and services.

"He has an extensive network of contacts in the capitals of all EU member states and in the European Parliament, which I consider a valuable asset for this function."

The Frenchman, a Vice President of the European People's Party (EPP), currently serves as Juncker's special advisor on EU defence and security. In 2014, he failed in his bid to become EPP President and the party's candidate for the Commission presidency, losing out to Juncker.

As chief negotiator on article 50, Barnier's task will be to prepare the groundwork internally ahead of Brexit. Once article 50 has been triggered, he will serve as the main point of contact for UK and member state representatives. 

He is due to take up his new role on 1 October.

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