The triggering of Article 50 is an unprecedented event. If anyone tells you they know exactly how this process is going to unfold, don’t believe them. The political principals have themselves never been through such a confrontational negotiation with hitherto key allies and partners. It’s simply impossible to judge how personal and political affiliations will fair throughout this process.
That said there are people who will be crucial in shaping the media coverage, as well as politicians unhindered by collective responsibility of the front bench who can give insight, that keen followers of the Brexit negotiations should follow.  If you want to keep your finger on the pulse of the negotiations we have outlined some influential politicians outside the negotiations and journalists to keep an eye on:

The media

Bruno Waterfield, Brussels correspondent, The Times –  ever the breaker of a late-night EU front page exclusive, Bruno Waterfield moved from the Daily Telegraph to The Times in 2015 to lead the world-famous newspapers’ coverage out of Brussels. He has outstanding sources and can spot a Brussels stitch-up a mile off. Waterfield will be a key conduit of insight, gossip, news, and analysis out of the leaky EU institutions as the negotiations unfold. It also helps that his newspaper’s editorial position is what you could call ‘practical pro-Brexit’ – giving him the chance to write stories with a greater breadth and balance than some of his competitors.

Patrick Wintour, Diplomatic Editor, The Guardian – Patrick Wintour is a living legend in political circles. His journalism has graced the front page of The Guardian since 1983 and his current posting as Diplomatic Editor brings unique expertise to the papers coverage of the Brexit negotiations. Wintour’s style of journalism always sheds light on nuanced and behind the scenes debates, whilst preserving the anonymity of his high-level sources. That proximity with decision-makers closest to the centre of power has consistently made Wintour’s pieces a must-read. More often than not when other correspondents were struggling to piece together the real picture, Patrick had already written it. Now Article 50 has been triggered, frustrated officials and politicians involved in the reality of the Brexit negotiations will want to vent their views to those journalists whom they trust, and Wintour will no doubt stand ready to hear their confession.

Valentina Pop, EU correspondent, Wall Street Journal – Valentina Pop has worked at the Economist and EUObserver before joining the WSJ in 2015. Her perspectives on Brexit and wider EU issues put her at the front of the pack as a must-read Brussels based correspondent. EU leaders are under pressure to hold the remaining EU27 steady as they deal with Brexit in parallel with crises in the Eurozone, Greece, and the potential fallout of the French and Dutch elections. Pop’s status as a Brussels insider places a premium on her analysis of these wider issues as the Brexit negotiations begin.

Alex Barker, Brussels Bureau Chief, Financial Times – a former Westminster Lobby journalist, Alex Barker knows his way around the corridors of power in London as well as Brussels. His newspaper, the Financial Times, is widely read in capitals across Europe and its coverage focuses on the economic and business issues at the heart of Britain’s future relationship with the EU. Barker has deep policy knowledge as well as excellent political contacts, he’s often the first to decode a seemingly innocuous memorandum or briefing.

Ryan Heath, Senior EU Correspondent and Associate Editor, POLITICO Europe – A former European Commission spokesperson, Ryan Heath has now positioned himself well as the go-to Brussels commentator and reporter. Having lived life on both sides of the fence it’s a fair claim to that crown and his early morning ‘Playbook’ newsletter arrives in some of the most important inboxes across the continent. Expect Heath to break a number of exclusives during the negotiations, and also look to him to unpack the competing priorities of the remaining EU27 as they try to agree a common approach to Brexit amongst themselves.

The policy-wonks

Charles Grant, Director of the Centre for European Reform – the most influential voice on policy issues surrounding Brexit is the longstanding head of the CER, Charles Grant. His briefing notes and op-eds are keenly digested by political and policy experts. He is usually ahead of the pack when it comes to outlining the potential options available to both the UK and the EU on tricky areas such as free movement. He’s often in the offices of senior officials in Berlin or Brussels and his public commentary aims to provide practical routes forward for policy-makers.

Hugo Dixon, Founder of InFacts – a former journalist and author, Hugo Dixon founded the website InFacts in order to fact-check all sides during the UK’s referendum campaign. His sizable social media following and his connections in the media (he sold Breakingviews to Reuters in 2009) made him an influential voice on policy during the campaign itself. Now repurposed to ‘make the most of post-referendum Britain’, the InFacts website often hosts controversial content designed to break the group-think of some media outlets. Dixon himself is often quoted in the media and is a regular commentator.

Nina Schick, Policy commentator –  former head of communications for the influential think-tank Open Europe, Nina Schick is now Berlin-based and is a leading EU political commentator and consultant in EU policy, German politics and Brexit. Her experience working with some of the leading Brexit voices in the UK whilst at Open Europe, alongside her impeccable links in European capitals make her views and opinions essential reading. Expect sharp and topical political analysis from Schick throughout the negotiation process.

Mark Leonard, co-Founder of the European Council on Foreign Relations – one of the most well respected think tanks on Brexit is the European Council on Foreign Relations which manages to balance UK-based perspectives on Brexit alongside other geo-political issues. Its co-founder, Mark Leonard, is a political analyst who isn’t afraid to deep dive into some of the underlying issues driving the politics around Brexit in the UK and across Europe.

Matthew Elliott, Brexit Central Editor-at-large and Legatum Institute Senior Fellow.  Elliott was Chief Executive of VoteLeave and set up Brexit Central as a successor to the campaign to ensure the provision of information highlighting the positive aspects of Brexit in a social media dominated by the contrary opinion.  Elliott founded Business for Britain which paved the way for the eventual successful campaign organisation during the EU referendum, and is now helping to feed in ideas about what form the negotiations should take, and priorities for the Government.

The politicians

Hilary Benn – Chair of the Exiting the EU Committee and former Shadow Foreign Secretary whose approach to foreign policy is closer to the Parliamentary Labour Party and centre ground of politics than the current front bench occupants.  Benn was a Remain supporter and has made it his job to hold Ministers to account during the negotiations ahead.

Douglas Carswell – UKIP MP with a liberal leave bent and antidote to former UKIP leader Nigel Farage’s more controversial commentary, Carswell is the philosophical bedfellow of his erstwhile colleague and Tory MEP Dan Hannan.

Nigel Farage – Former UKIP leader and MEP who remains a favourite of the media for his firebrand approach to political discourse.  Whilst no longer at the top of the party, Farage has a show on LBC radio and has promised to stand again of Parliament in Thanet South if the Electoral Commission finds evidence of infractions by the Conservatives following the last General Election.  Farage retains a core following in the country and his prominence in the media mean he cannot be discounted.

Tim Farron – determinedly pro-EU leader of Lib Dems with a clear view that the UK should remain in the EU despite the outcome of the referendum.  Farron’s party may be small in the House of Commons, but he has demonstrated the party can be a home for people who feel leaving the EU was the wrong decision.

Michael Gove – Conservative MP and former Chairman of VoteLeave, Gove has returned to his role as a columnist for the Times after being sacked by Theresa May.  Had Gove been a senior member of the Government, he may have pushed for a more radical approach to Brexit and the need for a fundamental change to the way the UK works.  As it is, he will have to make the case for it from the sidelines.

Daniel Hannan – Conservative MEP and driving force behind the liberal leave philosophy.  Hannan wrote the book ‘What next?’ to set out how he’d like the UK to look once it left the EU.

Emanuel Macron – as the frontrunner in the French presidential elections, what Macron says during his campaign is important.  He has been clear that he sees Brexit as an opportunity for French business, and doesn’t believe Britain should get a special deal.  If he becomes president, it may be the case that the EU plays a much harder ball, since the French economy is less reliant on links with the UK than some others.

Alex Salmond – former Scottish First Minister and now the SNP’s Westminster foreign affairs spokesman.  Salmond is known to be more compulsive in his approach to policy than the more cautious Nicola Sturgeon and will be pushing his successor to take any opportunity to make the case for Scottish independence during the Brexit negotiations.

Anna Soubry – Conservative MP and prominent Remainer, who has made it her manna to highlight the need to make as soft a Brexit as possible.  Speaks for a small but prominent group of Tories likely to form the new ‘awkward squad’ for Theresa May.

Guy Verhofstadt – former Belgian Prime Minister, leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in the European Parliament, and arch-federalist, Verhofstadt was nominated as the European Parliament’s Brexit negotations chief and believes the EU should have more power rather than less.  The European Parliament will have to formally vote on the outcome of the negotiations and Verhofstadt will want to ensure that the road to greater European integration is not harmed by a deal which demonstrates a positive path outside the EU.