Tuesday 27 September 2016

'Tough' Barnier to lead Brexit talks

Published 28/07/2016 | 02:30

EU negotiator Michel Barnier Picture: AFP/Getty Images
EU negotiator Michel Barnier Picture: AFP/Getty Images

Former French government minister and EU Commissioner Michel Barnier has been named as a negotiator in the upcoming EU-UK Brexit talks.

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The move was greeted with coolness in Britain, where Mr Barnier is remembered as a harsh critic of financial practices in the City of London during his term in Brussels.

The appointment, announced by the policy-guiding European Commission, also means that confusion persists about which of the EU institutions will take the lead in the upcoming Brexit talks.

The European Council, which provides back-up to EU leaders' summit meetings, has already announced a lead negotiator - to the dismay of EU Commission President, Jean Claude Juncker.

Mr Barnier is a long-time French Gaullist politician who served as Foreign and EU Affairs Minister before going to the Commission in 2010 to take over financial services regulation. He succeeded Irish Commissioner Charlie McCreevy and was in turn succeeded by UK nominee Andrew Hill, who resigned in the wake of the Brexit Leave vote on June 23.

Initial reactions in Dublin were that Mr Barnier is a tough negotiator, but is focused on a good outcome. But sources noted it was still unclear how much input he will have in the actual outcome. But former EU Affairs Minister Gay Mitchell, who worked with Mr Barnier on preparations of the 1998 EU Treaty of Amsterdam, said he is "an excellent choice".

Mr Mitchell also pointed out that Britain's Brexit Minister, David Davis, met Mr Barnier during the 1998 Treaty preparations and they had a good relationship. He said Mr Barnier was "a good negotiator" with a good knowledge of agriculture and financial services.

Irish Independent

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