The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator and David Davis have finally started Brexit talks in Brussels, almost a year after the historic EU referendum.
During a joint press conference this morning, Mr Davis reaffirmed his desire to build a “strong and special bond” between Britain and the EU.
Mr Davis said: “It’s at testing times like these that we are reminded of the values and the resolve that we share with our closest allies in Europe.”
Mr Barnier said he wanted to “tackle the uncertainties of Brexit”, adding that the pair were working on deciding priorities and a timetable for talks.
Who is Michel Barnier?
Despite being virtually unknown in the UK, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator is the most powerful man on the EU side of the historic Brexit talks.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker appointed the experienced former French minister to the top job in December 2016.
At the time Nick Clegg, former Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister, said the appointment would “set alarm bells ringing in the City of London”.
The concerns came after Mr Barnier, 65, was branded the “most dangerous man in Europe” in an opinion piece by the Daily Telegraph in 2010.
He had just been appointed as the European Commissioner responsible for cleaning up Europe’s financial services centre and there were fears he had too much power over the City.
When he was appointed to the role, then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy hailed a victory over “Anglo-Saxon capitalism”.
After ending his five-year stint as EU commissioner in 2014, Mr Barnier was appointed as Mr Juncker’s special advisor in 2015.
What has Michel Barnier done?
Mr Barnier broke into politics in 1978 when he was elected to the French National Assembly as Deputy for the Department of Savoie.
He held a number of French cabinet positions including Minister of the Environment and Way of Life, Minister of State for European Affairs and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
One of Mr Barnier’s biggest achievements was organising the 1992 Winter Olympic Games in the French Alps.
Some of the French elite once derided Mr Barnier as “le cretin des alpes” – a nod to his origin in the French Alpine mountains of Savoy.