Sunday

25th Feb 2024

EU commission sets up Brexit unit

  • Faull is currently director general in charge of financial services (Photo: europeanbusinesssummit)

The European Commission has sent a strong political signal to London by appointing a special team to take charge of relations with the UK in the run-up to its referendum on EU membership.

Jonathan Faull, a lawyer and one of Britain's top civil servants in the commission, will head up the new unit, which officially starts its work on 1 September.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Musical chairs: Georgieva promised more women in six to eight months (Photo: European Commission)

Kristalina Georgieva, commissioner in charge of the decision, said the new set-up is a "recognition of the significance of the work to be done".

"Our relations with the UK as it prepares for a referendum are very important," she said.

Faull's job will be to mediate between civil servants in Brussels and those in London.

He will "lead our work as issue after issue comes to our intention, in terms of what the expectations of the UK are for reforms of the European Union, what is possible [and] how we can meet each other," said Georgieva.

The UK has said it wants changes to rules governing access to social welfare benefits by non-UK EU citizens, to protect the City of London from EU laws, and to ringfence rules on the single market, which it feels may be threatened by euro states.

After the negotiations, the UK government plans to have a poll on whether the country should stay an EU member - the referendum is meant to take place by end of 2017 but may take place as early as autumn next year.

The new 'Brexit unit' is part of a wider reshuffle in the European Commission which sees the longstanding and powerful secretary general, Irish woman Catherine Day, retiring from her post at the end of August. She will be replaced by a Dutch man, Alexander Italianer, who until now was heading up the anti-trust unit.

Day, who was secretary general during the EU's 10-state enlargement in 2004 and then throughout the financial crisis, was given an "emotional send-off" on Wednesday. Virtually every dossier in the commission went across her desk.

"She played a crucial role in helping this new commission to start at full speed," said commission president Jean-Claude Juncker while Georgieva said Day is leaving "big shoes to fill".

Of the 33 director generals - who head up individual commission departments - 23 will remain in place. The criteria for choosing whether people stay or go included whether their jobs were highly sensitive or very busy (such as the migration unit), as well as individual preference.

Two women were promoted to director general posts - Germany's Marianne Klingbeil, who will be in charge of regulatory scrutiny, and France's Monique Pariat, in charge of humanitarian aid.

But Georgieva admitted that there are not enough women in top jobs.

"We have unfortunately started with a very modest pipeline of senior women", she said.

She likened the gender picture to the shape of a vase with many women at lower positions, fewer in the middle, and rather more at the top.

"Call on me within the next six to eight months and you will see [a] change. Our target is 40 percent women in middle and senior management positions by 2019."

Georgieva also conceded that newer member states were still under-represented.

But she said the "big problem" is older member states, who will shortly see a batch of "senior staff" retiring "pretty much around the same time".

UK referendum vote highlights anti-EU feeling

British MPs have voted against a referendum on EU membership. But Prime Minister David Cameron indicated he will try to claw back EU powers in an upcoming review of the Treaty.

Brexit talks must get political, or face delay

Leaders at Thursday's summit will take stock of Brussels-London talks on the in/out referendum, but real negotiations can't start until Britain submits detailed wish list of EU reforms.

British Queen calls for European unity

The British Queen and the German president have spoken out against the UK's potential EU exit, but Cameron-Merkel relations are more important.

British unions warn Cameron over EU referendum

British trade unions are worried Cameron's government might use the EU renegotiation to weaken workers' rights. They warned that if he does so, they will vote in favour of a Brexit.

Cameron to set out EU reforms in November

David Cameron is to outline his proposals for a reformed UK membership of the EU in early November and promises to quicken the pace of negotiations.

Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns

Germany is expanding agreements to return rejected asylum seekers to their countries of origin as part of a wider shift in Europe to curtail migration. Berlin has reached deals with Georgia and Morocco since December.

Latest News

  1. EU rewards Tusk's Poland on rule of law with €137bn
  2. UK-EU relations defrosting ahead of near-certain Labour win
  3. EU paid Russia €420-per-capita for fossil fuels since war began
  4. After two years of war, time to hit Putin's LNG exports
  5. Creating the conditions for just peace in Ukraine
  6. Energy and minerals disputes overshadow new EU-ACP pact
  7. Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns
  8. How Amazon lobbyists could be banned from EU Parliament

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us