Friday

24th Nov 2017

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.

MEP switches vote on 'private expenses' transparency

A small group of MEPs are looking into how members of the European Parliament spend the monthly €4,300 'private expenses' funded by taxpayer money. Last month, MEPs voted on transparency amendments on the funds.

News in Brief

  1. Irish opposition 'threatens national interest', says minister
  2. SPD drops opposition to grand coalition in Germany
  3. Macron avoids criticising Poland on legal reforms
  4. Denmark, France and Belgium have highest income taxes
  5. ECB split over keeping QE open-ended
  6. Rwanda may resettle 30,000 migrants from Libya
  7. EU tax haven blacklist may include Turkey
  8. No UK 'capital of culture' city post-Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaLaunch of Honorary Council on the Occasion of the Eastern Partnership Summit and CEPA
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Leaders Should Press Azerbaijan President to End the Detention of Critics
  4. CECEKey Stakeholders to Jointly Tackle the Skills Issue in the Construction Sector
  5. Idealist Quarterly"Dear Politics, Time to Meet Creativity!" Afterwork Discussion & Networking
  6. Mission of China to the EUAmbassador Zhang Ming Received by Tusk; Bright Future for EU-China Relations
  7. EU2017EEEstonia, With the ECHAlliance, Introduces the Digital Health Society Declaration
  8. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC to French President Macron: We Oppose All Contact With Far-Right & Far-Left
  10. EPSUWith EU Pillar of Social Rights in Place, Time Is Ticking for Commission to Deliver
  11. ILGA EuropeBan on LGBTI Events in Ankara Must Be Overturned
  12. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!

Latest News

  1. Irish crisis may complicate Brexit summit
  2. UK to call out 'hostile' Russia at EU summit
  3. EU calls for better disease prevention
  4. Eastern Partnership must not be deterred by Russian aggression
  5. EU awaits UK proposals in final push for Brexit breakthrough
  6. Berlin risks being 'culprit' for stalling EU, warns Green MEP
  7. Eastern partners, eastern problems
  8. Germany's Schulz under pressure to enter coalition talks