The European Union’s deputy Brexit negotiator, Sabine Weyand, has been promoted to a senior trade job, giving her a crucial role in any future talks with the UK.
Weyand will become director-general of the European commission’s trade department from 1 June. She is the most senior player to leave the EU’s “taskforce 50”, a squad of senior officials created to negotiate the UK’s exit from the bloc.
Her departure is another sign the EU is moving on from the Brexit withdrawal agreement, which European leaders have repeatedly said is not open for renegotiation.
The German trade official tweeted she was “proud and honoured” to be appointed to the post. “Many trade policy achievements to build on, many challenges ahead,” she said.
The appointment was flagged by her new boss, the EU trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmström.
If Brexit goes ahead, the commission will be the lead negotiator in trade talks with the UK. The chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has said this agreement would be “unprecedented”, without damaging the integrity of the EU’s single market.
Talks on a EU-UK trade agreement were meant to have begun on 1 April, but were put on hold after the British government secured a six-month Brexit extension until 31 October. The delay has already eaten into nearly 10% of the transition period that was due to end with a complete trade deal on 31 December 2020.
Weyand, one of the architects of the withdrawal agreement, has worked at the EU civil service in Brussels for 25 years, after graduating top of her class at the elite training institution, the College of Europe. Colleagues describe a woman with a very British sense of humour, who loves Shakespeare and Harry Potter, and has a mastery of technical detail.
“So many officials can either do the big waffle or they can do the minutiae of article six, paragraph whatever. What she can do is grasp the technical details and the political interplay,” one EU official said.
An EU taskforce 50 team will remain in place, as long as the UK’s exit is ongoing.