Theresa May to join talks to allocate EU top jobs in final Brussels trip as PM

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Prime Minister Theresa May (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Theresa May will join talks aimed at naming the next leaders for the top positions in the European Union in what is set to be her final trip to Brussels as Prime Minister.

EU leaders will meet for the European Council summit on Thursday, where they hope to decide who should take over from the likes of Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker.

Mrs May will take part in the discussions, but is not expected to play a major role in the decision.

A Number 10 spokeswoman said: “As long as we’re still a member we will continue to take part in those discussions, but I think at the same time we are respecting President Tusk’s approach to create a package of candidates across all of the jobs and we recognise this is primarily a matter for the 27.”

A new European Council president, European Commission president, European Central Bank president and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will be decided in the talks.

It is not clear whether the “Spitzenkandidaten process” – in which political groupings in the European Parliament put forward their choices – will be used again, following its initiation in the 2014 elections.

But the main political groupings in the Parliament have nominated candidates, including German MEP Manfred Weber for the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and former Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans for the Party of European Socialists (PES).

The liberal group has put forward a “Spitzen Team” made up of figures including European Parliament Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt and Danish EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

However, French president Emmanuel Macron is thought to favour appointing the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier to the role, limiting Germany’s power in the bloc which would grow if Mr Weber became Commission president.

The successful candidate will take office on November 1.

The European Council president will be selected from a field of former heads of government and will assume the role on December 1.

EU leaders will also focus on climate, disinformation, the long-term EU budget and external relations at the summit, before discussing the bloc’s top jobs over dinner.

Mr Tusk, in a formal invitation letter to EU leaders ahead of the summit, said he hoped the decision would be made on Thursday.

He wrote: “After the European elections we agreed to try and appoint the new leaders of the EU institutions in June.

“Over the past 3 weeks I have been consulting closely and regularly with you as well as with the European Parliament and its political group leaders.

“These consultations have shown that there are different views, different interests, but also a common will to finalise this process before the first session of the European Parliament.

“To this end, I will continue to consult you one by one up until the summit starts. I remain cautiously optimistic, as those I have spoken to have expressed determination to decide swiftly. I hope we can make it on Thursday.”

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