Meet the people who will deal the cards that could seal Britain's fate—on Europe's behalfby Uta Staiger, Nicholas Wright / November 17, 2016 / Leave a comment
When Theresa May invokes Article 50, the formal trigger on Britain’s exit from the European Union, multiple and multi-layered negotiations will begin. So far, the EU has maintained a united front on Brexit—“no negotiation before notification.” But once the real discussions begin, facing Britain across the table will not be one person, but a set of different actors with different roles and responsibilities, and each under different pressures.
As Britain demands a previously unavailable mix of national immigration control and international trading rights, the day-to-day discussion will be managed by a trio of less familiar names, appointed by the three main EU institutions to hold the Brexit ring.
Ultimately, though, the “negotiating buck” will stop with the national governments of the EU 27 and they have a range of mechanisms, both institutionalised and informal, to enable them to coordinate their positions alongside and with the key EU institutions. However, given the unprecedented domestic pressures facing many of them, they will likely be pulled in many different directions.
So what do we know about the three “Brexit leads” who could ultimately determine the UK’s fate? What formal powers do they have? How will they navigate the fiendish mix of institutional and national interests that must be respected and balanced in any outcome? What are some of the national agendas and red lines that might upset negotiations? And what attitude will each adopt towards anything that sounds like British special pleading?
Chief Negotiator for the Preparation and Conduct of the Negotiations with the United Kingdom, European Commission
The European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, said he “wanted an experienced politician” for the “difficult job” of negotiating Brexit, and in Michel Barnier he has found one. Twice a European Commissioner, four times a French minister, and briefly an MEP, Barnier is just as comfortable in Brussels as he is in Paris. Hailing from one of the two biggest EU states, and buttressed by a deputy from the other (the veteran Commission trade negotiator Sabine Weyand is German), for Barnier, navigating the relationships between national capitals and EU institutions is second nature.
Nicknamed the “scourge of the City” by the British press during his stint as Single Market Commissioner, when he oversaw…