World Bulletin / News Desk
He will represent the interests of the 751 members of the parliament, which is the EU’s directly-elected institution and jointly approves legislation and the budget with the European Council.
The parliament will also have to sign off any future trade deal between the EU and the U.K. following Brexit.
Verhofstadt, who served as Belgium’s prime minister between 1999 and 2008, is a political liberal and known for his support of European federalism.
On Thursday, he tweeted his “honor” at being appointed by the main political groupings in the European Parliament to represent them.
But his role in Britain’s forthcoming exit negotiations might be overshadowed by the EU’s other main institutions – the European Commission, which proposes new EU laws, and the European Council, which is composed of member state government leaders. Both bodies are expected to appoint separate negotiators of their own.
Since the U.K.’s Brexit referendum in June, European Council President Donald Tusk announced Belgian diplomat Didier Seeuws would lead negotiations for him, while the Commission appointed former French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier.
Britain has created a special ministerial role – the secretary of state for leaving the European Union – and appointed prominent Eurosceptic lawmaker David Davis for it.
In a meeting with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May earlier on Thursday, Tusk said Britain should trigger Article 50 – the formal mechanism for a member state wanting to exiting the EU – as soon as possible, although this is not expected to happen until 2017.