Thursday

6th Aug 2020

Agenda

Brexit finally happens - the UK leaves the EU This WEEK

  • It's goodbye to Britain. EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and EU Council president Charles Michel sign the UK-EU withdrawal agreement (Photo: Council of the European Union)

The EU is entering a historic week - although the bloc's institutions go out of their way not to mark the event.

The UK leaves the EU on Friday (31 January) at midnight, the first-ever member state to do so.

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The signing of the divorce deal took place on Friday (24 January), but the EU commission and EU council did not allow press organisations to document the signing - over which the Associated Press news agency filed an official complaint.

To round up the ratification process of the withdrawal agreement, MEPs in the European parliament will vote on the deal on Wednesday (29 January) evening.

No official event is scheduled to mark the departure of the UK. On the 31st the UK flag will be taken down around the various EU institutions. The commission has said plans for events are still being worked out.

From February on, the UK will be a "third country", but EU rules and obligations will continue to apply until the end of the transition period in December 2020.

Negotiations on the future trade deal are expected to start at the end of February, or beginning of March, after member states give the green light to the commission's negotiating mandate.

Trade negotiations generally take several years, and EU officials have warned that the few months available for talks with the UK until the end of the year will not be sufficient for an all-encompassing detailed agreement.

British prime minister Boris Johnson has ruled out requesting an extension to the transition period, which he could do until July, for one or two years more.

A EU-UK trade deal would have to be done by October for the new agreement to be ratified. It will be a so-called "mixed agreement", as it would touch upon EU and member states competencies, therefore eventually it would have to be ratified by all EU counties.

Provisionally, most of the deal can come into force once the European Parliament ratifies it.

Parties in the parliament will lose and gain some seats as Brexit comes into effect. Out of the UK's 73 seats, 27 will be redistributed to other countries with the centre-eight and far-right gaining the most seats.

Looking to the future

EU affairs ministers will gather on Tuesday (28 January) in Brussels and attempt to hammer out their position on what exactly should be the Conference on the Future of Europe.

The parliament and the commission have already put forward their ideas, but member states have been less enthusiastic about the two-year exercise.

"Hope the ministers will give a political guideline. So far we have not found common ground, several issues are outstanding, particularly on the governance, the set up, the organisation of the conference," an EU official said.

Ministers will discuss what is the overall aim of the conference.

They also want to make sure the opportunity to talk to citizens is used well, not only focused on internal "EU bubble issues", and they do not want to prejudice the outcome of the process, such as making a commitment to treaty changes, the official added.

The final framework, scope and aim of the conference will have to be agreed by the three EU insinuations.

The leaders of the three institutions, David Sassoli from the parliament, Ursula von der Leyen from the commission and Charles Michel from the EU council, on Thursday will head to the Jean Monnet Museum House in France for a "presidents' retreat" on preparing the future of the EU.

Parliament business

In the parliament, von der Leyen will present the executive's work program to MEPs on Thursday (30 January) and debate the priorities with them.

The speakers of the parliaments of Albania, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia as well as the president of Croatia's parliament will discuss the Western Balkans' European perspectives on Tuesday in the parliament.

MEPs will vote on a resolution on Thursday calling for measures to make common mobile chargers a reality.

The harsh humanitarian situation in Greece among migrants will be debated on Wednesday by MEPs with the commission and the Croatian EU presidency.

MEPs will also vote on Thursday on their position on closing the gender pay gap, as the commission said it wanted to create legally-binding pay transparency measures. The resolutions follows up a debate earlier in January.

The parliament's economic committee will on Monday hear from the commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis, commissioner for economy Paolo Gentiloni, and social rights commissioner Nicolas Schmit.

The parliament will hold a ceremony on Wednesday to commemorate the liberation of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp 75 years ago.

On Monday, EU council chief Michel will participate in the commemoration of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

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Opinion

Brexit can spur EU fight on bureaucracy

The reaction of the EU is horror over the level playing field. My reaction is the total opposite. Britain's cocky and ambitious goals for its business climate is one of the best things that can happen to Europe.

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