The taskforce is to be known as the ‘Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom' ("UKTF"). It will be part of the European Commission's Secretariat-General.
While there will have been several Prime Ministers, Secretaries of State for Exiting the European Union and senior officials on the UK side, Michel Barnier has been a continuous presence on the EU side of the negotiations.
There will, however, be some changes on the EU side. For example, Jean-Claude Juncker will be replaced as President of the European Commission by Ursula von der Leyen, while Donald Tusk will be replaced as President of the European Council by Charles Michel. But Michel Barnier will remain in place. Such continuity in terms of knowledge and appreciation of all the issues could be invaluable.
The new UKTF will include the current TF50 ('Task Force for the Preparation and the Conduct of the Negotiations with the United Kingdom under Article 50 TEU') and the Secretariat-General's ‘Brexit Preparedness' unit.
The UKTF will:
- coordinate the European Commission's work on all strategic, operational, legal and financial issues related to Brexit
- take charge of the finalisation of the Article 50 negotiation
- continue work on No-Deal Brexit preparations
- work on the future relationship negotiations with the UK.
The new regime will take effect on 16 November 2019. This is irrespective of whether the UK will still be an EU Member State or not on that date.
Interestingly, the European Commission has put a date on when its work will start – 16 November 2019 – but no one has set a date for when its work will be completed.
Indeed, its work will probably last as long as the EU and the UK exist – unless the UK leaves and seeks to re-join when there will be an Article 49 Task Force established to deal with the UK re-accession. A lesser-known provision in Article 50 is its fifth paragraph: "if a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to re-join, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49." In other words, it has to go through the full application procedure and unanimity is required among all then existing Member States to allow the Member State to re-join.
Those involved in Brexit now should take note: that leaving may be difficult, but re-joining may be impossible.