Reports of the European Union’s top Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier being sidelined in an attempt to push forward a trade agreement with the U.K. are “unfounded rumors,” an official at the European Commission said on Saturday.
According to areport in the Telegraph late on Friday, EU leaders will step in to get discussions moving as the two parties remain deeply divided. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country holds the EU presidency, and Charles Michel, president of the European Council, would take over the talks, leaving Barnier and his U.K. counterpart David Frost to fine tune the details, the Telegraph said.
“Whoever wants to engage with the EU on Brexit needs to engage with Michel Barnier,” said Sebastian Fischer, a spokesman for the German government in Brussels. “He is the EU’s Brexit chief negotiator and enjoys the full trust, support and confidence of the EU27,” the German diplomat wrote in a tweet.
Von der Leyen is expected to pave the way for the intervention in a “State of the Union” speech scheduled for Sept. 16, the Telegraph said.
The first of two rounds of trade talks scheduled for this month will take place in London next week.
Read more: U.K.’s Frost Warns of Limited Progress in Brexit Talks With EU
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