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Incoming EU chief again urges UK to nominate commissioner

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European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen delivers a speech during the plenary session of the Paris Peace Forum, on November 12, 2019 in Paris. (Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN / POOL / AFP)

The incoming president of the European Commission wrote to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson for a second time on Tuesday to urge him to nominate a British commissioner, a spokeswoman said.

Ursula von der Leyen hopes to head a 28-strong team of top officials from each of the EU member states in time for her commission to take office on December 1.

But Johnson, who has vowed to take Britain out of the bloc before January 31, is fighting a British election campaign on a pro-Brexit ticket and has yet to respond.

Briefing reporters, von der Leyen spokeswoman Dana Spinant confirmed the British government had not replied to an earlier urgent letter calling for a nominee.

“This is the reason why this morning the president-elect has sent another letter to the UK government reminding it of its legal obligations under the treaty,” Spinant said.

In addition to his obligations under the EU treaty, Johnson also committed to the principle that he must supply a nominee when he accepted an extension to the Brexit deadline.

But, while British officials stress they will meet their “legal obligations”, the government has not given any sign of who might be proposed for an EU post.

“Time is running out. This is why the president-elect is expecting an answer very soon to this second letter and at any rate before the end of this week,” Spinant said.

After a tricky start that saw three of von der Leyen’s nominees rejected by lawmakers, she now has 27 names from other EU states to bring before parliament and is waiting on the last one to be suggested by London.

The commission’s investiture has already been delayed from November 1. Officials refuse to say how they will proceed if Britain does not come up with a nominee soon.


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