Sunday

25th Sep 2022

EU states to keep control of Brexit talks

  • Former commissioner Michel Barnier would lead the talks with the UK (Photo: European Commission)

Twenty seven EU leaders, without Britain’s Theresa May, will sit down for dinner in Brussels on Thursday (15 December), to discuss the technicalities of Brexit negotiations.

The final act of the EU summit will not agree guidelines for the upcoming talks, but is expected to agree on the procedure.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The 27 are to issue a short statement reiterating that there would be no negotiations with London before it invoked the Article 50 exit clause in the Lisbon Treaty.

On Monday, EU diplomats sketched out a draft annex, seen by EUobserver, to the EU27 statement that goes into some detail of how they envisage the Brexit process.

May said she would trigger Article 50 by the end of March by formally notifying the other EU states of the UK's intention to leave.

Once that is done, the 27 will "set out the overall positions and principles" of their negotiation mandate, the annex says. They could amend these guidelines later, if necessary.

According to the one-page draft document, the General Affairs Council [GAC], which is made up of EU affairs ministers and foreign ministers, would handle the Article 50 procedure. It would authorise the opening of negotiations, based on the guidelines.

The EU negotiator will most likely be the European Commission, as it has the manpower to handle the legal quagmire.

"We want to make sure that there is one negotiator on the continental side, and the Commission has the know-how and the capacities," an EU official told EUobserver.

The source said that "on the other hand, it must be clear that the Commission will not negotiate on its institutional behalf, but on behalf of the 27 [countries], that have tangible interests [in the outcome]."

Barnier's leash

The EU27 aim to hold the Commission and its chief negotiator, French politician Michel Barnier, on a tight leash.

"There is a strong appeal from the member states that they should fully participate and want to have strong control over the negotiations," said an EU official.

Barnier will need to include people from EU council chief Donald Tusk's office in the discussions with the UK.

Regular meetings of EU ambassadors and a specially dedicated working group in the EU Council, with a permanent chairman, will also make sure that the negotiations are conducted in line with the guidelines and will "provide guidance" to Barnier.

"We have major issues at stake. It’s not us being difficult with the Commission, but this is a negotiation like no other, so it has to be very carefully designed in terms of institutional mechanics," an EU diplomat said.

"We have to make sure there is no meltdown at national parliament level [when the final Brexit deal has to be ratified], that’s why [we need] the strict control," the diplomat added.

Barnier said last week that he would also keep the European Parliament informed.

UK locked out

The UK’s representatives will not take part in any of the internal EU talks, whether in GACs, lower level EU27 Council groups, or EU inter-institutional meetings.

The annex does not go into political objectives that the 27 aim to push for.

"We are not there yet," a senior EU diplomat said.

Brexit Briefing

Davis brings Brexit back to reality

Brexiteers will be shocked to hear the government is considering slaughtering the sacred cow, offering up contributions to the EU budget in exchange for market access.

Brexit Briefing

Warm words in London, isolation in Brussels

British PM Theresa May found herself in not so splendid isolation at Thursday's EU summit, where Brexit garnered 20 minutes of time from EU leaders, suggesting Britain is fast approaching European political sidelines.

Podcast

How Europe helped normalise Georgia Meloni

Should Georgia Meloni be considered neofascist? She insists she's a patriotic conservative. And indeed, if she's prime minister, she's expected to respect Italy's democracy — if only to keep money flowing from the EU.

Editorial

Background reads: Italy's election

With Italy heading to the ballot boxes this Sunday, let's take a look at what EUobserver has published that can help understand the country's swing to the (far)-right.

News in Brief

  1. More Russians now crossing Finnish land border
  2. Report: EU to propose €584bn energy grid upgrade plan
  3. Morocco snubs Left MEPs probing asylum-seeker deaths
  4. EU urges calm after Putin's nuclear threat
  5. Council of Europe rejects Ukraine 'at gunpoint' referendums
  6. Lithuania raises army alert level after Russia's military call-up
  7. Finland 'closely monitoring' new Russian mobilisation
  8. Flights out of Moscow sell out after Putin mobilisation order

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  5. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling

Latest News

  1. Ireland joins EU hawks on Russia, as outrage spreads
  2. Editor's weekly digest: Plea for support edition
  3. Investors in renewables face uncertainty due to EU profits cap
  4. How to apply the Nuremberg model for Russian war crimes
  5. 'No big fish left' for further EU sanctions on Russians
  6. Meloni's likely win will not necessarily strengthen Orbán
  7. France latest EU member to step up government spending in 2023
  8. Big Tech now edges out Big Energy in EU lobbying

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us