Tuesday

16th Jan 2018

Federalist Verhofstadt to join top table in Brexit talks

  • The former Belgian PM in full swing at the EU parliament (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

The European Parliament has picked Belgian federalist Guy Verhofstadt to speak for it in the upcoming Brexit negotiations.

The decision, announced by EP political chiefs on Wednesday (8 Thursday), prompted a slight dip in the value of the British pound amid speculation that he will take a hard line.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The 63-year old former Belgian prime minister, who advocates the creation of a US-type federal state in Europe, will join Michel Barnier, a French former EU commissionner, who is to represent the European Commission, and who has a history of antagonism with the City of London.

Didier Seeuws, a younger Belgian official, will represent the EU Council.

An EU source told EUobserver that the two main EP groups, the centre-right EPP and the centre-left S&D, endorsed Verhofstadt, a liberal, because they liked his handling of pre-referendum UK talks.

“He had a good rapport with [former British PM] Cameron during the negotiations on special status. They disagreed on several issues, but they had the same, plain-speaking style”, the source said.

The UK, prior to holding the referendum in June, had negotiated “special” derogations from EU law.

The EU source added that the liberal Alde group was in line for a top job because the EPP and S&D had dominated other high EU posts.

For his part, Philippe Lamberts, a Belgian MEP who co-chairs the Green group, said Verhofstadt had been chosen by EP leaders because he was a former PM who knew how the EU Council operated and because he was a “convinced European, even if I disagree with him on other issues".

The Brexit talks are expected to start early next year and to revolve around access to the UK for EU workers and access to the single market for British firms.

The EU exit negotiations, the first in history, are uncharted waters.

They will be dominated by member states, but the EP says it has power of co-decision on the new international treaty that is to govern issues such as EU-UK trade.

It also says it has to give “consent,” a majority vote, on a separate treaty enacting the UK’s EU exit, as well as on a third document - a new edition of the EU treaty with all the references to the UK cut out.

“The European Parliament will need to approve a possible agreement on the conditions for the UK’s departure from the EU”, Verhostadt’s group said on Thursday.

It said he would “help prepare the EP position in the [Brexit] negotiations, in close consultation” with other political chiefs and with relevant committees, such as the constitutional affairs committee.

The EU source said no one knows yet what the Brexit talks will look like.

The contact said initial negotiations are likely to take place in the EU Council building between the 28 sherpas (senior aides) from member states, and a delegation from the EU Council’s legal services.

“The legal services will tell us what’s possible and what’s not possible on technical issues,” the source said.

He said the big questions would be decided at a “higher political level”, with the EU triumvirate - Barnier-Seeuws-Verhofstadt - involved.

Brexit may not happen, EU top judge says

The EU's most senior judge has cast doubt on whether the UK will really leave the EU, while adding that it was never a fully-fledged member in the first place.

Opinion

Ten Commandments to overcome the EU's many crises

A series of missteps - from the faulty institutional infrastructure of the euro, to the migration crisis - have left the EU battered and in near crisis. Here are ten steps to re-democratise the union.

Interview

Estonian presidency leaves 'more confident' EU

During its six months as head of the EU Council, Estonia tried to maintain EU unity and push 'digital' - despite Brexit and the lack of a government in Berlin, explained deputy minister for EU affairs Matti Maasikas.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  2. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  3. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  4. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  5. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  6. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted
  7. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  8. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  9. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  10. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  11. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  12. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology

Latest News

  1. Fewer MEPs than visitors turn up for Estonian PM
  2. EU names China and Russia as top hackers
  3. Ten Commandments to overcome the EU's many crises
  4. Brexit opens Pandora's Box on number of MEPs per country
  5. Romanian PM resigns in spat with convicted party leader
  6. Macron's Chinese 'game of influence'
  7. EU's 'old men' must pressure Poland on abortion rights
  8. Commission to float anti-'fake news' proposals in spring