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article imageLanguage at UK talks not decided says EU's 'Monsieur Brexit'

By AFP     Oct 21, 2016 in World

The European Commission's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said Friday that the official language of talks with Britain had yet to be decided, denying reports he had insisted they be in his native French.

"Never expressed myself on negotiation language," Barnier, a former French agriculture minister and France's one-time European Commissioner, said on Twitter.

"Work as often in EN (English) as FR (French). Linguistic regime to be set at start -- to be agreed btw (between) negotiators."

Asked whether the negotiations would be in French, British Prime Minister Theresa May told a news conference after a summit in Brussels: "We will conduct the negotiations in the way that will ensure we get the right deal for the UK."

A British official told AFP they were not aware of any such request by Barnier, who took up his post at the start of October.

Barnier's appointment by Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker in July was dubbed a "declaration of war" by British media while he remains loathed in the City of London for taking on the banking sector while he was financial services commissioner.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there would be nothing unusual in European officials being allowed to use their mother tongue during talks.

"If I am well informed, everybody here is allowed to speak his language. And since Mr Barnier is a French citizen, it's not unnatural that he speaks French, the way I speak German," she said.

Barnier, Brussels and London have all previously played down talk of bad blood over his time as commissioner and he insists he can reach a "win-win agreement" for Brexit.

"I was called the most dangerous man in Europe, and (yet) finally we succeeded to build a clever global financial regulation agenda, with the UK on board," Barnier said in September.

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