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Who will negotiate Brexit?


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Today is the day: Great Britain officially begins proceedings to leave the EU by triggering Article 50.

While we’ve heard a lot about the deals, the consequences, and the potential things that could happen, who are the people that are going to try and negotiate the best deal for us in this landmark process?

Everyone knows that the most important people in terms of leaders will be our Prime Minister, Theresa May, a previously quiet Remain supporter now following through on the 52% vote’s result, and Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany and regarded as one of the most powerful leaders in the world right now - she is often referred to as the European Union’s de facto leader.

However, who are the people behind the scenes? We have all the key facts you need:

Michel Barnier

Appointed by the European Commission as the chief negotiator of the Brexit plan, the former French Europe minister has previously ensured rights of foreign people in other countries, namely Polish students and Romanian nurses living in the UK. He has only spoken publicly on Brexit twice since being appointed last year, just last week warning that he would be unwavering in explaining exactly “what leaving the European Union means for the country that leaves but also the member states”. His job will see him working opposite the UK’s Brexit secretary, David Davis.

David Davis

The UK’s Brexit secretary will be working directly with the European Commission and Michel Barnier in negotiating the best deal possible for when the UK eventually leaves the EU in two years’ time. Despite holding Eurosceptic views he previously served as John Major’s Europe minister, helping to negotiate some of the EU agreements he will now set out to undo under Theresa May.

Sarah Healey

Healey, having worked for a short while under Iain Duncan Smith throughout his tenure as Work and Pensions secretary and also as director of strategy under Michael Gove within the Education Department, is now the Director General of the Department for Exiting the EU. She will effectively work as David Davis’s second-in-command within the department, although many reports on her appointment were more concerned over her previous wins as a contestant on University Challenge in the ‘80s than her experience.

Sabine Weyand

A veteran representative at the European Commission, Barnier selected Weyand as the deputy chief negotiator of Brexit last September. Having graduated from Cambridge in 1980, Weyand knows the UK well, and also has 23 years of trade relation experience. She has worked at the Commission for over a decade and Jean-Claude Juncker himself has described her as one of their “best and brightest”.

Donald Tusk

The former Polish Prime Minister, Tusk has warned that Brexit could end “in the destruction of not only the EU but also Western political civilisation in its entirety”, and is not the only one to feel this way within the Commission. His job is essentially to keep European leaders united throughout the Brexit negotiations and keep things calm and civilised. In his role as Polish PM he dealt with the negotiations over Greek debt, conflict in Ukraine and the recent migrant crisis.

Sir Tim Barrow

Following Sir Ivan Rogers’ resignation as UK ambassador to the EU due to the government’s “muddled thinking” regarding Brexit, Tim Barrow has now been appointed to this role throughout the negotiations. Barrow previously served as Britain’s ambassador in Moscow, between 2011-2015, and also for the Ukraine, having begun his career at the foreign office in 1986 at the UK embassy in Brussels and as an adviser to Robin Cook, former Labour foreign secretary, on issues regarding Russia, the Middle East and the EU itself.

Didier Seeuws

Seeuws has been employed as the head of the Council’s Brexit negotiation task force, whose job is not only to keep the peace within the other 27 national governments within the EU, but also to determine a longer term strategy for the relationship between the EU and the UK for the future. He previously worked as Belgian deputy ambassador to the EU and also had a role within the Greek debt crisis talks.

Oliver Robbins

Named as the ‘top civil servant’, aka the Permanent Secretary in the Department for Exiting the EU, Robbins has previously worked for Gordon Brown’s Treasury. Throughout the Brexit process he was recruited as Theresa May’s senior EU adviser, having previously garnered a reputation as a skilled mediator.

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