Sticking around: Barnier rules himself out of running for EU's top job

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier

EU chief negotiator and Brexiteer nemesis Michel Barnier has ruled himself out of the race to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission.

In a letter posted on Twitter, the 67-year-old Frenchman said running as the so called Spitzenkandidat of the conservative European People's Party would be incompatible with his role in the Brexit negotiations.

"It is my duty and responsibility to continue the Brexit negotiations right to the end," he said.

I have decided today not to run for the nomination as the @EPP's European elections lead campaigner at #EPPHelsinki. It is my duty and responsibility to continue the #Brexit negotiations right to the end.

-- Michel Barnier (@MichelBarnier) September 28, 2018

Under the Spitzenkandidat system, the party groupings in the European Parliament each choose a lead candidate to campaign across the EU and challenge each other in debates.

One of the candidates - most probably the nominee of the grouping that wins the most seats in the parliament - is then chosen by the European Council, made up of EU leaders, to be the commission president.

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Federica Mogherini, the EU's foreign policy chief, is a potential lead candidate for the social democrats.

The system was first used in 2014 when Juncker became president, having beaten Barnier for the EEP nomination.

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But it is unclear whether it will be used again after it was heavily criticised by EU leaders - including French president Emmanuel Macron - who want a greater say over appointing the EU's top official.

Macron is thought to favour Margrethe Vestager, a Danish liberal, but she is likely to face opposition from German chancellor Angela Merkel, who may insist on a fellow conservative.

A dark horse who could suit both Macron and Merkel is Christine Lagarde, who currently heads the International Monetary Fund.

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