Brexit: Ireland wants place on EU group leading talks with UK

Taskforce will represent EU in negotiationswith Britain on exit once Article 50 triggered

British foreign secretary Boris Johnson who will be part of the British negotiating team that will hold Brexit talks with a new EU taskforce once Article 50 is triggered.

British foreign secretary Boris Johnson who will be part of the British negotiating team that will hold Brexit talks with a new EU taskforce once Article 50 is triggered.

 

Ireland is making a concerted push for an Irish official to be appointed to the European Commission’s Brexit taskforce, as preparations begin for negotiations on Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Commission sources have confirmed that senior members of Ireland’s diplomatic service have met with the Commission in Brussels in recent weeks to press the case that Ireland should be represented in the Brexit taskforce, possibly at deputy director-general level.

In July, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker announced the establishment of a new Brexit ‘taskforce’ which will lead the EU’s negotiations with Britain on its exit from the EU.

The task force will be chaired by former EU Internal Markets commissioner Michel Barnier

Earlier this month, Sabine Weyand, a senior trade official at the commission, was appointed as deputy chief negotiator of the Brexit taskforce.

A second deputy may be appointed in the coming months.

While the taskforce will be up and running by October 1st with a core team of approximately 10 people, this will be substantially expanded once Britain invokes Article 50, the mechanism within the Lisbon Treaty that triggers a country’s exit from the EU.

In addition the taskforce will liaise with staff within each directorate-general of the European Commission as issues pertaining to each area of EU policy come up for negotiation during the Brexit talks.

Among the names mentioned in EU circles as possible Irish candidates for the Brexit taskforce are Anthony Whelan, director in DG connect, the Commission’s digital single market division; John Berrigan, deputy director general of the Commission’s financial services division and Michael Scannel, former director of the food and veterinary office.

As all three hold senior positions within the EU, much will depend on the grade at which the posts will be made within the Brexit taskforce.

The moves by Ireland to ensure it is represented in the talks comes as the Irish embassy - known as the Permanent Representation to the EU - prepares to bolster its staff-levels in Brussels ahead of Brexit.

In recent weeks, a new EU-UK unit has been set up within the EU delegation, with further staff expected to be seconded to Brussels as the Brexit negotiations commence.

Ireland’s Permanent Representation in Brussels is Ireland’s biggest diplomatic mission abroad, with approximately 85 staff stationed in Brussels.

This includes diplomats and members of the Department of Foreign Affairs as well as attachés seconded to Brussels from a range of government departments including finance, justice and agriculture.

The team is led by ambassador Declan Kelleher who was seconded to Brussels in 2013 having served almost a decade as Irish ambassador to China.

While the European Council is expected to drive much of the political decision-making around the Brexit negotiations, the Commission’s Brexit taskforce is expected to play a central role once the negotiations begin.

Mr Barnier, France’s commissioner under the previous administration, was most recently employed as a security adviser to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

While Mr Barnier antagonized many in the City of London during his term as Internal Markets commissioner by introducing a raft of regulatory measures in the wave of the financial crisis, he is viewed as a shrewd and fair negotiator.

Three months after Britain voted to leave the European Union, it is still unclear when London will invoke Article 50, the process which will formally start the exit negotiations.

Downing Street played down claims by British foreign secretary Boris Johnson this week that Article 50 would be invoked early next year, stating that the decision on triggering the exit mechanism would be the prerogative of prime minister Theresa May.

Mr Johnson also predicted that the process could take less time than the two year time-frame envisaged in the Lisbon Treaty.