Juncker names former rival as Brexit negotiator
By Eszter Zalan
EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker appointed former French commissioner for financial services as chief negotiator in charge of negotiations with the UK.
Michel Barnier, a 65-year old former French minister and vice-president in the previous Commission between 2010-14, was in charge of the internal market and services.
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He sought the job of EU Commission president in 2014, but the task was later given to Juncker, his rival in the conservative European People's Party.
Barnier said in a tweet that he was “honoured to be entrusted” with the post.
He added: "Rendez-vous for beginning of demanding task on 1 October."
His official title will be "chief negotiator in charge of leading the Commission Taskforce for the Preparation and Conduct of the Negotiations with the United Kingdom" under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
The UK has not yet triggered the exit procedure under Article 50, and British prime minister Theresa May suggested it is unlikely the UK will launch the process before the end of the year.
Michel Barnier will report directly to Juncker and will have a team of experts at his disposal.
He will be regularly invited to the the meeting of the commissioners to brief the college on the negotiations.
Juncker said he wanted "an experienced politician for this difficult job", adding: "Michel is a skilled negotiator with rich experience in major policy areas."
Most of the negotiations are nevertheless expected to be done by the council, representing member states.
They will have to navigate through the difficult two-year negotiations and find a balance between the UK's access to the single market in exchange for some level of freedom of movement from and within the bloc.
Barnier's France has been urging for a tough exit deal for Britain, as French president Francois Hollande faces challenge ahead of next year's presidential elections from far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who wants France to hold a referendum on its membership.