Thursday

22nd Feb 2018

May to soothe EU leaders' post-election Brexit worries

EU leaders will gather on Thursday and Friday (22-23 June) in Brussels for a two-day summit on the week Brexit negotiations kicked off.

The 27 leaders will hear from UK prime minster Theresa May, upon her request, on her struggles to form a government after a bruising election two weeks ago and how it will influence Brexit.

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May is also expected to outline some principles of the UK's paper on citizens rights which will be published early next week.

However, after May is finished with her talk during Thursday’s dinner, leaders are not expected to quiz the British PM.

“We do not encourage our leaders to engage in a discussion following her presentation: May is aware of it, it is not in her interest to engage in a discussion either,” said a senior EU diplomat

He added that Monday’s Brexit talks created a "very positive atmosphere" between London and Brussels.

“We don’t have the ambition to sort out all the problems until the end of the week, but we want to build trust that would allow to the negotiations to go smoothly,” said another senior EU official.

Brexit talks kicked off on Monday, and the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, will brief EU leaders after May has left the room on Thursday night.

EU leaders will also discuss the criteria for relocating the two EU agencies currently based in London, but a decision on the move will only be made in October.

China screening

French president Emmanuel Macron is expected to push for curbing foreign takeovers in strategic industries by scrutinising investments at the EU summit on Friday.

Concern is rife among some EU members, including Germany, that China is aiming to take over companies in Europe that have advanced technology in strategic sectors.

State-owned ChemChina recently bought Swiss farm company Syngenta, deepening those concerns.

On Friday, leaders will discuss the concept of screening investments at EU level, but decisions on investments lie with the EU member states.

“This is about China. But we as EU should be careful not to send protectionist signals, a compromise formulation will emerge on this,” one EU official said.

European Council president Donald Tusk and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker will brief leaders on the meeting with US president Donald Trump, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The two EU institution leaders will also talk with the heads of EU countries about the EU-China summit and have a wider discussion on the EU’s role in the world.

A discussion on Turkey might emerge among leaders, as Austria pushes for EU accession talks to officially freeze over Erdogan’s crackdown on his opponents.

But EU leaders are keenly aware that Turkey is a crucial partner as a Nato ally and for halting the flow of migrants on the Western Balkan route.

“Everybody is aware of what is at stake, I expect some cynical pragmatism to prevail,” said an EU official.

The elephant in the room

Migration will be on the table on Friday, where leaders are expected to give new political guidance on reforming the bloc’s asylum system.

Last December, the EU leaders set a June deadline for agreeing on reforming the so-called Dublin system, but major fault lines persist with regard to the quotas set to relocate asylum seekers from frontline states.

Some countries - such as Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic - said they would refuse to take in migrants.

“The elephant in the room is the responsibility and solidarity and how that translates into legislation,” said one diplomat.

Leaders will try to build momentum on issues where there is more agreement on external aspects, such as tackling migration on the central Mediterranean route and beefing up help for patrolling Libya’s southern border.

They will also discuss an EU-wide safe third country concept.

Sanctions

French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel are expected to recommend another six-month rollover of tough economic sanctions imposed in 2014 against Russia over the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The French and German leaders will brief fellow leaders on the Minsk ceasefire process, which has seen continued clashes between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed rebels.

Security

In the wake of the terror attacks in Europe, security will feature high on the EU leaders’ agenda on Thursday.

This time they want to encourage the internet industry to develop new technology and tools to combat online terrorism and radicalisation.

Leaders will also want a new mechanism to better track the movement of people moving in and out of the Schengen zone to be finalised and operational.

Security and defence to top EU summit

Pressure is mounting for social media platforms to remove any online content deemed to incite terrorism. Draft conclusions, seen by EUobserver, have made the issue a top priority in leaders' talks next week.

UK agrees to EU conditions on Brexit talks

In their first meeting, the EU's Michel Barnier and Brexit minister David Davis agreed that talks on future relations will start only when "sufficient progress" has been made on divorce proceedings.

Focus

UK's universities set 'Brexit wish list'

British academics want to guarantee residency and work rights for their EU staff, as well as "enhanced mobility opportunities" for UK and EU students, mostly by keeping British participation in EU funding programs.

Barnier warns UK Brexit transition period 'not a given'

After one of the tensest week so far in Brexit talks, 'substantial' disagreements remain between the UK and the EU over transition, with Michel Barnier insisting London needs to decide on the future relationship and Ireland for Brexit to happen.

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