Jean-Claude Juncker aide handed top EU job to deal with UK – Barnier’s task force scrapped

David Cameron says Brexit referendum ‘thought through’

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Before taking his new role, Richard Szostak was an influential member of the former European Commission president’s cabinet. The Polish eurocrat is a Brussels veteran, also having acted as a legal adviser to the European Council and a diplomat for his country’s permanent representation to the EU. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has shaken up the teams in charge of monitoring the post-Brexit relationship with Britain.

Her chief negotiator Michel Barnier is due to step down from his role in the coming days and the Frenchman’s UK Task Force will be disbanded.

Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic will lead all future work on the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement and Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

The Slovak diplomat will be supported by a newly-formed UK service of experts brought in to work exclusively on post-Brexit talks with Britain.

Marie Simonsen and Stefan Fuehring will also join the new unit having previously worked on Mr Barnier’s UK Task Force.

The Frenchman’s former deputy, Clara Martinez Alberola, will join Commission Secretary-General Ilze Juhansone’s team.

Mr Szostak, a fluent English speaker, earned a degree in English and French law from the University of London’s King’s College.

He went on to complete a masters in contemporary European politics and history and a PhD in international relations from the University of Cambridge.

The Pole started working in Brussels at the European Council’s legal service in January 2005.

He was later seconded to team overseeing Poland’s presidency of the EU in May 2011, acting as a an adviser on legal and justice and home affair.

Mr Szostak joined the Commission in June 2012 as a member of former Luxembourger commissioner Viviane Reding’s cabinet.

In a farewell message, Mr Barnier yesterday warned there are still “many challenges ahead” for UK-EU relations.

The Frenchman said: “More than four years of hard work and two incredible teams.

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“Mission accomplished: ensure orderly Brexit, defend EU and new relations with the UK.

“Each and every person was outstanding. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

“Today is the first day of the rest of our lives. Many challenges ahead.”

Work is already underway on managing the UK and EU’s future relations.

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Brexit minister Lord Frost has been in “constant contact” with his EU counterpart Mr Sefcovic, the Commission yesterday said.

The pair will have to reach an agreement to end tensions over the Brexit deal’s Northern Ireland Protocol to prevent a hard border.

It has created new trade frictions between the region and mainland Britain that have infuriated Unionists.

They will also have to work on a plan to end a recent shellfish ban slapped on British fishermen.

Boris Johnson has been urged to ban EU exports of bottled water to the UK in response. 

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