EU pushes Brexit Britain to name new commissioner

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union pressed Britain on Tuesday to name a representative for the new executive European Commission despite the country’s planned departure for the bloc.

FILE PHOTO: Small toy figure is seen in front of UK and European Union displayed flags in this illustration picture, October 17, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

With campaigning underway for a national election on Dec. 12, the British government has so far shown little interest in the matter after Prime Minister Boris Johnson was forced to delay Brexit for a third time, until Jan. 31.

But the EU is keen to press ahead with the launch of its new commission on Dec. 1, which will be headed by the German Ursula von der Leyen, the first woman to hold that post.

The body, which normally comprises of one representative from each member state, holds powers including negotiating international trade deals, policing members states’ finances and proposing EU-wide laws on a range of topics including the environment and migration.

A spokeswoman for von der Leyen said in Brussels on Tuesday that London has failed to reply to a letter from her asking it to name a commissioner.

“This morning, the President-Elect (von der Leyen) has sent another letter to the UK government reminding it of its legal obligations,” spokeswoman Dana Spinant said.

Von der Leyen was expecting a reply before the end of the week, she added.

Under EU laws, Britain is obliged to propose a name. The other 27 EU states also made clear London needs to do that when they granted Johnson the latest Brexit delay last month.

A spokesman for the British mission to the EU confirmed on Tuesday Britain had received and was considering a letter from von der Leyen.

A spokesman for Johnson said on Monday when asked about naming a new commissioner said Britain would meet its legal obligations and officials were in contact with Von der Leyen’s team.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska in Brussels, Elizabeth Piper in London; Editing by Angus MacSwan