BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier on Friday ruled himself out of the race to become the head of the European Commission, the bloc’s executive, next year, saying he needed to remain focused on the talks with Britain.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the current president of the Commission, is due to step down next year after European Parliament elections set for May.
Barnier, a Frenchman, is from the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), the largest in the current European Parliament and had been mentioned as a possible successor to Juncker.
“I have decided today not to run for the nomination as the EPP’s European elections lead campaigner,” Barnier said in a letter to the party.
“We are in the final stretch of a serious and complex negotiation on the orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom. It is my duty to remain engaged with all my energy and determination,” he said.
Over the year-and-a-half of Brexit negotiations, Barnier has greatly increased his profile by travelling extensively around the EU and holding meetings that have also included less-prominent regional leaders, labour unions and business.
The Commission has the initiative to draft EU laws, monitors compliance and acts as a competition watchdog. A new executive will take over in November 2019.
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Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska and Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Gareth Jones