U.K. Diplomat Gets Green Light to Become EU’s Anti-Terror Chief

  • Julian King wins European Parliament backing for Brussels role
  • Assignment comes as London prepares to trigger Brexit process

Julian King, a British diplomat, won European Parliament support to become Europe’s counter-terrorism chief after sailing through a confirmation hearing at which he pledged to act independently of the U.K. government as it prepares to trigger Brexit negotiations.

The European Union assembly gave the green light on Thursday in Strasbourg, France, for King to take on the role of “commissioner for the security union.” He is the new U.K. appointee to the European Commission, the 28-nation EU’s executive arm, after Jonathan Hill resigned in the wake of the Brexit referendum in June.

Julian King
Julian King
Photographer: Niall Carson/PA via AP Photos

King’s appointment highlights the waning of U.K. influence in the EU since the British referendum in which 52 percent of voters opted to quit the bloc after 43 years of membership. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker gave Hill’s heavyweight portfolio -- financial services -- to the EU commissioner from Latvia in charge of the euro and carved out a special job for King, who may end up being the last European commissioner from Britain.

The Brussels-based EU executive body, whose tasks range from managing the bloc’s budget and enforcing antitrust policy to regulating banks and running a foreign service, is led by a team of 28 commissioners -- one from each member country. Not only is the portfolio drawn up for King squeezed between current commissioners, European anti-terrorism policy lacks the reach over national governments that financial-services regulation has. EU countries have guarded their sovereignty over security matters.

“Neither terrorism nor organized crime respects national borders,” King, who was British ambassador to France during the U.K. referendum campaign, said at his Sept. 12 hearing in the EU Parliament’s civil-liberties committee. “We will need the highest possible degree of coordination and joined-up teamwork with member states.”

The commission’s current five-year term ends in October 2019. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has been pressed by the rest of the EU to start the two-year Brexit process as soon as possible. May has said she won’t trigger the negotiations this year and has declined to give further clarity on her timing plans.

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