Michel Barnier handed new Brexit role in EU as talks with UK set to continue for years

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Ursula von der Leyen offered her former chief Brexit negotiator the new role after he was forced to retire as a full-time official. The decision was announced today by European Commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas, who also revealed his colleague Maros Sefcovic will co-chair the UK-EU Partnership Council to settle disputes arising from the trade agreement. The pair will form a new EU task force charged with monitoring and enforcing the rules in the UK-EU trade and security pact. 

Mr Schinas told reporters: “The European Commission has today decided to establish a new service, which will be part of the secretariat general and support the efficient and rigorous implementation and monitoring of our agreements with the United Kingdom.

“This comes as the Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom, which successfully spearheaded our negotiations until the agreement was reached on Christmas Eve, will cease to exist on March 1.

“In this context, I am pleased to share that Michel Barnier has been appointed special adviser to the President.

“He will advise our President on the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, as well as on the ratification process of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

“At the same time, my colleague, vice-president Maros Sefocvic will be the EU representative in the Partnership Council established in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement in the capacity of co-chair.”

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Of his appointment, Mr Barnier said: “Congratulations Maros Sefcovic on your appointment!

“Honoured to continue at the European Commission for a few weeks, as special adviser to Ursula von der Leyen.

“I will continue working closely with the European Parliament and Council to ensure smooth ratification on the EU side.”

Messrs Barnier and Sefcovic will mainly be tasked with enforcing the so-called level playing field rules for fair competition.

The pair will be under pressure by member states to slap Britain with tariffs it the Government is deemed to have slipped too far below European standards.

Just last week Mr Barnier hinted the UK could fall foul of the level playing field rules by ignoring a Brussels ban on pesticides.

Mr Sefcovic’s first role will be negotiating with power hungry who are pushing for more powers to slap Britain with tariffs in the event of disputes.

Some states want a bigger say in decisions on whether to trigger retaliatory measures against Britain if it is deemed to have created an unfair advantage for its businesses.

EU states have demanded more time to scrutinise the UK-EU agreement because of a hold-up in translating the 1,246-page document into the bloc’s 23 official languages.

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A diplomat told Express.co.uk: “Translations will not be finished before February 28 and member states are still working through the details of the deal.”

The wrangling is expected to trigger further delays in the ratification process, with MEPs now considering a vote to green-light the agreement as late as April.

MEPs are also putting pressure on the EU’s new Brexit duo to crack the whip with Britain over divergences to EU rules.

Green MEP Bas Eickhout said the European Union should demonstrate there are “consequences” for Brexit trade deal if the UK moves too far below the bloc’s standards.

Under the agreement, the EU can call for Britain to be stripped of tariff and quota free trade if there are breaches to the so-called “level playing field”.

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Mr Eickhout, vice chair of the EU Parliament’s environment committee, told Express.co.uk: “Bees and other pollinators on both sides of the channel are seriously under threat.

“There is something dangerously wrong with our agricultural practices if they rely on pesticides that are harmful to bees.

“The UK should stick to its promises and ban such pesticides and instead use good agricultural practices to fight diseases.

“Instead of diminishing biodiversity, we need to increase it to protect the crops.

“If the British government persists on breaking its promise on this, the EU needs to make clear that this will have consequences for the Brexit deal.”

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