Thursday

17th Jan 2019

EU guidelines set out two-phase Brexit talks

  • “We understand the UK has a need to talk to other countries, but is should not happen in a way that [works] against EU interests,” a senior EU official said. (Photo: Reuters)

The EU’s draft Brexit negotiating guidelines were sent to member states on Friday (31 March), two days after the UK triggered its exit procedure from the bloc.

The guidelines, obtained by EUobserver, set out the political priorities and principles for the Union.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Member states are now going through the text to finalise their positions. The guidelines will then be adopted at a summit of EU leaders on 29 April.

Priorities

The EU will want to create certainty for the EU citizens caught up in Brexit - either EU nationals living in the UK, or Britons living in the EU.

The issue is very complex: negotiators will first need to identify who these people are, who is living in the UK now, as well as who has lived there before and might return. What about relatives - what should happen to their right to work, and their access to benefits and health care?

The EU wants "reciprocal, non-discriminatory" rules that are “enforceable” on both sides. This means that some sort of mechanism, or court, will have to oversee these rights. In the EU it is the European Court of Justice (ECJ), but there is still questions about what type of procedure will suit the UK.

The second issue is to settle the financial bill, for the UK to honour its previous obligations and commitments.

“It is not a punishment or discouragement to others,” a senior EU official said. Previous commitments have to be met to create certainty for authorities, businesses, universities, and many others.

The Republic of Ireland remains a key issue for the EU, as it wants to preserve the peace settlement in Northern Ireland, and to avoid hard borders.

But an EU official confirmed that "it will be an external border of the EU, so in a legal sense there will be a new quality [to] the border,” indicating that there will need to be changes to the current arrangement.

He added the EU’s commitment is to be "flexible and imaginative” about figuring out a way of doing that without undermining the single market, or the EU's legal order.

Phases

The EU’s draft guidelines state that the first phase of the negotiations should aim to agree on a divorce settlement on the rights and obligations of the UK.

It would have the goal of providing "as much clarity and legal certainty as possible to citizens, businesses, stakeholders and international partners” on the future.

An agreement on these points does not have to be achieved for the EU and the UK to start talking about the future in a next phase, but “sufficient progress” is necessary.

It is a political assessment, and it is for the EU leaders to decide when that sufficient progress has been achieved, based on the recommendations of the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier.

A senior EU official said that the bloc wants to move onto the first phase as quickly as possible, and it could be negotiated by autumn.

If that political criteria is met, the EU would be open to talk about a future framework.

However, the details of a future relationship and trade deal can only be discussed once the UK is out. "The future relationship as such can only happen when the UK becomes a third country," said a senior EU official.

However, any future trade deal cannot amount to being a member of the single market, the EU warns.

"It must ensure a level playing field in terms of competition and state aid, and must encompass safeguards against unfair competitive advantages through, inter alia, fiscal, social and environmental dumping,” the draft guidelines state.

Transitional period

That future agreement will need to be ratified by national parliaments, which could take up to two years.

Therefore, the guidelines foresee a transitional phase to “bridge” the time between the divorce settlement and when the UK leaves the bloc in 2019, and a future trade deal, which can only be negotiated in detail when the UK is already out.

"Any such transitional arrangements must be clearly defined, limited in time, and subject to effective enforcement mechanisms,” say the guidelines, again providing for the possibility that the ECJ will still play a future role in the UK.

While the UK is still an EU member, it is not allowed to enter into official trade talks with third countries, as that is the exclusive authority of the European Commission. However, it would be allowed to engage in preparatory talks.

“We understand the UK has a need to talk to other countries, but is should not happen in a way that [works] against EU interests,” a senior EU official said.

'Dispute settlement'

The withdrawal settlement under Article 50 "should include appropriate dispute settlement mechanisms”, the draft guidelines say, meaning that some sort of court jurisdiction will have to be maintained.

Any Article 50 agreement will legally be an EU agreement, which doesn’t have to be ratified by the national parliaments, but would fall under ECJ jurisdiction if it were to be contested.

Creating certainty

"Brexit will have consequences, things will change,” warned a senior EU official.

“There will be some level of destruction, barriers, not because of Brussels bureaucrats but because of the UK's decision,” he added, reiterating European Council president Donald Tusk’s sentiments that the Brexit talks will amount to “damage control”.

The draft guidelines will be further discussed on 11 and 24 April at the meetings of EU affairs advisers, who give counsel to the leaders.

The EU affairs ministers will also comb through the text on 27 April, in preparation for the 29 April summit.

Be fair in Brexit talks, EU tells UK

European Council chief Tusk sent draft guidelines to member states. He said the EU wants "fairness" and then warned against using security cooperation as bargaining chip.

MEPs draw 'red lines' on Brexit deal

MEPs will stress that the UK and EU members have no right to conclude separate deals during Brexit talks, according to a draft resolution seen by EUobserver.

Transparency is key EU tactic in Brexit talks

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said his mandate and all EU commission working documents will be made public during the negotiations. Tactic or policy shift? This time, the EU is interested in transparency.

Agenda

Brexit, Syria and Greece on the agenda This WEEK

The European Parliament will adopt its position on the UK's exit, and eurozone finance ministers will try to break a deadlock on the Greek bailout talks. Meanwhile in Brussels, there will be discussions on ending the war in Syria.

Brexit talks turn ugly on Gibraltar

Britain has said Spain can have no new powers over Gibraltar, as Brexit prompts hard talk on sovereignty, security, and borders.

News in Brief

  1. Another referendum 'would take a year', Downing St says
  2. 82-year old Berlusconi to run in EU elections
  3. EU parliament votes to triple funds for democracy promotion
  4. EU parliament backs linking budget payments to rule of law
  5. Verhofstadt voted for Draghi amendment 'by mistake'
  6. 'Plan B' Brexit vote in UK parliament set for 29 January
  7. Verhofstadt wanted Draghi out of G30 group
  8. Putin heads to Serbia amid warnings against West

Opinion

Lost in Brexit chaos - abortion rights in Northern Ireland

Labour MP Diana Johnson has brought a private members bill to Westminster that proposes to decriminalise abortion in the whole of the UK, which means that, if successfully passed, current provisions for Northern Ireland will also be repealed.

May on whistle-stop EU tour to seek new backstop pledges

The British prime minister dramatically delayed a parliamentary vote on the Brexit deal at the last minute, as she faced defeat. Theresa May will now speed-tour EU capitals to try to secure further political guarantees.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  2. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  3. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  4. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift
  5. German spies to monitor far-right AfD party
  6. On Morocco, will the EU ignore its own court?
  7. UK parliament rejects May's Brexit deal in historic defeat
  8. EU suggests majority vote on digital tax by 2025

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us