Friday 9 December 2016

Former UK ambassador to Ireland appointed European anti-terror chief

Sarah Collins

Published 03/08/2016 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny meets British Ambassador to Ireland Julian King in Brussels in 2011. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Taoiseach Enda Kenny meets British Ambassador to Ireland Julian King in Brussels in 2011. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The European Union has named Britain's former ambassador to Ireland as its new anti-terror commissioner.

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Julian King will replace the UK's outgoing EU commissioner, Jonathan Hill, who was the bloc's financial services chief until he quit following the June 23 Brexit vote.

The job, which is subject to approval by MEPs, was specially created for Mr King. Taking over as banking chief was not an option after Brexit. The new brief is weighty enough to please the UK without handing too much power to a commissioner whose country is on its way out of the EU.

Under EU law, the UK remains a member of the bloc until it triggers divorce proceedings, which could take two years or more.

"The UK will continue to fulfil our rights and obligations as a member state until we leave the EU and the Prime Minister has been clear that we will be an active player, so it is right that we should continue to have a commissioner role," said a Downing Street spokesman.

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he wanted Mr King to "fully play" his part on his team.

British Conservative Party MEP Timothy Kirkhope said the appointment "sends a strong signal that the security relationship between Britain and the EU will remain of key importance post-Brexit".

As commissioner for the 'Security Union', Mr King will be responsible for co-ordinating the EU's response to a spate of terror attacks, with a focus on returning foreign fighters, intelligence-sharing, anti-radicalisation and cybercrime.

But many question whether the appointment is right given Britain's long-standing opt-out on EU security and justice rules, an exemption also granted to Ireland.

"It would be odd to give such an important portfolio to someone who has no incentive to further the European interest in general or more specifically, to enhance the EU's security capabilities," said Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the European Parliament's liberal group.

Mr King, who is currently the UK's ambassador to France, was ambassador to Ireland from 2009 until 2011.

Irish Independent

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