In a bid to salvage her gender-balanced top team, the German insisted the Prime Minister should put forward a woman as Britain’s top eurocrat. European sources said the letter was a “firm” warning to the Government that it is expected to nominate a commissioner as part of the latest Brexit delay. A European Commission spokeswoman said: “The President-elect has sent a letter to Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister, which she invites Mr Johnson to propose the name of a UK candidate or candidates.
“She also encourages the UK prime minister to propose female candidates given Mrs von der Leyen objectives to have gender parity in her Commission.”
Mr Johnson will be expected to reply to the letter before the end of November in order for members of the European Parliament can sign off the candidate.
“She invites Mr Johnson to reply quickly, as soon as possible, since our aim is, that the makeup of the future college of commissioners be completed quickly so that European Parliament can vote before the end of November,” the EU spokeswoman added.
MEPs will also vote on new Hungarian, French and Romanian candidates after the previous nominations were thrown out, delaying Ms von der Leyen’s coronation as Commission president.
The former German defence minister faces the threat of further delays after failing to deliver a gender neutral college of commissioners.
Romania and France, whose female candidates were rejected by MEPs, have now both selected males to become their commissioners – the current tally stands at 15 men and 11 women.
The EU Parliament’s socialist bloc has warned Bucharest’s candidate faces the chop unless new prime minister Ludovic Orban nominates a woman.
Iratxe Garcia, the leader of the S&D group, has requested an urgent meeting with Mrs von der Leyen to express her colleagues’ growing anger at the lack of gender disparity.
An S&D official said: “It’s already difficult for our group to swallow that there is a risk that there won’t be a political balance.
“But in that case, it makes it even more important to fight for the gender balance.”
The Commission’s dutch first-vice president Frans Timmermans has warned that the political balance has once against shifted towards the centre-right European People’s Party, the largest bloc in the EU Parliament.
“I have some worries about the political balance which had already shifted a bit towards the EPP through earlier measures,” he said.
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“I think that the Commission, in relation with Parliament, should reflect the political balances across the board.
“And I think this is a responsibility of all. But we will see what happens.”
Pro-Brussels Liberal Democrats have welcomed Mrs von der Leyen’s attempt to secure a female British commissioner in the coming weeks.
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Lib Dem MEP Caroline Voaden said: “This is welcome news. Britain should be leading in Europe, not leaving.
“A UK Commissioner would ensure we are treated as equal partners as an EU member state and fully representative in Ursula von der Leyen’s new Commission.”
European officials beleive Mr Johnson could avoid sending a commissioner to Brussels, Express.co.uk understands.
The Commission’s legal service are working on possible alternatives to save the Prime Minister’s blushes in the current Brexit delay.
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