BRUSSELS, July 27 (UPI) — Michel Barnier, a French politician viewed with wariness by British leaders, was appointed by the European Union on Wednesday to lead talks on Britain’s exit from the EU.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced the appointment, saying Barnier will “help us develop a new partnership with the U.K.” The United Kingdom will begin separating itself from the EU, a process of at least two years, following a June referendum in which British voters favored a “Brexit.”
Barnier, 65, is a former French cabinet minister and leader in the center-right Les Republicains Party. As an EU official, he was commissioner of internal markets and services from 2010 to 2014, clashing frequently with British government and banking officials over the tightening of banking regulations. His appointment can be seen as an indication Britain will not easily unwind itself from the EU and may still maintain trade and banking advantages.
Denis McShane, a British politician and former Labor Europe minister, commented, “The U.K. press may try to demonize him or make him out to be unfriendly to Britain. It will be water off a duck’s back for Barnier. It makes perfect sense for Juncker to appoint a senior French politician; if he had named someone seen as an Anglophile, there would have been instant suspicions in many EU capitals that the commission was ready to roll over for London.”
Barnier will assume his new post on Oct. 1 and will engage in negotiations with British representatives led by David Davis.