Saturday

21st Oct 2017

May seeks EU grace period

  • May outlined her Brexit strategy in the the Santa Maria Novella church in Florence (Photo: Number 10/Flickr)

Nothing much should change in UK-EU relations for "around two years" after Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019, British prime minister Theresa May has said.

She proposed the transition phase while in Florence, Italy, on Friday (22 September), but her eagerly awaited Brexit speech was short on many of the details that are being sought after in Brussels.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The two-year "implementation period" was needed, May said, to "prepare and implement the new processes and new systems that will underpin that future [UK-EU] partnership".

She said businesses, public services, and citizens would have to get ready for the changes, such as a new registration system for EU citizens.

During this period, the EU and the UK should be able to access each other's markets on current terms, May added.

In his first reaction to the speech, Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator said that if the EU-27 agreed to a transitional period, then the existing EU "regulatory, budgetary, supervisory, judiciary and enforcement instruments and structures [would] apply" until 2021.

Barnier has said before that he would not agree to a transitional deal until first agreeing the terms of the UK's exit.

The exit deal is to cover three main issues: the rights of citizens, the Irish border, and the size of the UK's financial settlement.

To complicate matters further, the exit deal must be agreed within a year from now to allow time for ratification.

Honour commitments

In what could be a significant concession, May said Britain would "honour [financial] commitments we have made during the period of our membership".

"I do not want our partners to fear that they will need to pay more or receive less over the remainder of the current budget plan as a result of our decision to leave," she said.

She did not say how the UK settlement should be calculated or give a number, however.

The UK acknowledged during the summer that it needed to pay for previous financial commitments made while being an EU member, among EU-27 concern that Brexit would blow a hole in the current seven-year EU budget, which runs out in 2020.

May also hinted in her speech that the UK was open to continue financial contributions to specific post-Brexit programmes, such as those that promoted science, education, and security.

Barnier said the EU was ready to discuss the "concrete implications of [May's] pledge", but added that details remained to be worked out.

Besides the EU budget, member states pay into several EU-related funds and financial vehicles on common issues, such as the migration crisis and overseas aid.

Take into account ECJ

On another sore point, EU citizens' rights, May confirmed that these would be guaranteed in UK law.

She also said UK courts would be able to take into account rulings of the European Court of Justice to ensure "consistent interpretation".

Barnier said citizens rights had to be safeguarded in the same way in the UK and in the EU.

That means maintaining the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK, which May's party abhors.

May also underlined the need to protect the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland and the common travel area between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

But Barnier took her to task for lack of detail on the issues.

"Today's speech does not clarify how the UK intends to honour its special responsibility for the consequences of its withdrawal for Ireland," he said.

On the long-term relationship, May said she wanted a free trade deal with the EU that was more ambitious than the EU's agreement with Canada, but ruled out being bound by EU law in return fr access to the single market on the model of Norway.

She did not specify further.

"Let us be creative as well as practical in designing an ambitious economic partnership which respects the freedoms and principles of the EU, and the wishes of the British people," she said.

She added that she wanted a new security pact with the EU that went even deeper than current defence ties.

"I believe it is vital that we work together to design new, dynamic arrangements that go beyond the existing arrangements that the EU has in this area," she said. The UK "is unconditionally committed to maintaining Europe's security," May said.

Worries remain

EU officials were unimpressed by her speech and it remained to be seen whether if it was enough to unlock negotiations that have stalled after three rounds of talks.

"We look forward to the United Kingdom's negotiators explaining the concrete implications of prime minister Theresa May's speech," Barnier said in his statement.

Manfred Weber, the head of the centre-right EPP group, tweeted that May's speech lacked specifics.

Ireland's foreign minister Simon Coveney welcomed the "additional clarity", but said there were still many outstanding issues.

"The key thing now is that today's comments by Prime Minister May are translated into deliverables across the negotiating table in Brussels," he said.

Poland's Europe minister Konrad Szymanski said there could be no transitional agreement without agreeing on the three key issues in the divorce talks.

"We can agree to talk about transitional period in relation between the EU and the UK only if that could lead to complete compliance with the UK's commitments towards the EU," he said.

A new round of Brexit talks is to begin on Monday.

Barnier: UK risks undermining trust in Brexit talks

A day before UK PM Theresa May sets out her Brexit strategy in Florence, top EU negotiator Michel Barnier told lawmakers in Rome: there can be no transitional deal for the UK without a withdrawal agreement.

EU hopes for clarity on Brexit payments

May to give first major speech on Brexit since notifying EU that the UK was leaving. Negotiations have stalled, but she could revive them with a financial offer.

Johnson challenges May on hard Brexit

In yet an another attempt at becoming Tory leader, the UK foreign secretary argues for a hard Brexit, while PM Theresa May is expected to set out her strategy, including a financial settlement with the EU, on Friday.

UK parliament passes Brexit bill

The EU Withdrawal Bill passed by 326 votes to 290 in the House of Commons, but Conservative MPs warned that controversial plans for the government to overturn EU laws by executive order would have to be scrapped.

Analysis

May on mission impossible in Brussels

UK prime minister called on other EU leaders to "step forward together", but she has almost nothing to offer them except the threat of walking away.

EU rejects UK claim it's slowing Brexit talks

The EU is "not confident, but hopeful" that the UK will achieve sufficient progress for 'stage 2' by December, as Britain's Brexit negotiator blames the slow pace of negotiations on the EU ahead of a crucial summit meeting.

News in Brief

  1. Rajoy to trigger Article 155 on Saturday in Catalan crisis
  2. EU conducts unannounced inspection of German car firm
  3. Lithuania calls for new EU energy laws
  4. EU leaders aim for December for defence cooperation
  5. Juncker says hands tied on Russia pipeline
  6. Czechs set to elect billionaire Andrej Babis
  7. Italian regions hold referendums on more autonomy
  8. EU leaders refuse to mediate Catalonia conflict

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Jinping Proposes Stronger Global Security Governance at Interpol Assembly
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaEU Engagement Could Contribute to Lasting Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
  3. UNICEFViolence in Myanmar Driving 12,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Into Bangladesh Every Week
  4. European Jewish CongressBulgaria Applauded for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  5. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  6. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  8. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  9. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  10. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  11. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  12. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!

Latest News

  1. The mysterious German behind Orban's Russian deals
  2. Mogherini urged to do more on Russian propaganda
  3. Turkey funding cuts signal EU mood shift
  4. Posted workers top EU agenda This Week
  5. Leaders lobby to host EU agencies at summit's margins
  6. Legal tweak could extend EU control on Russia pipeline
  7. Ukraine language law does not harm minorities
  8. EU begins preparations for Brexit trade talks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People
  2. EU2017EEEHealth: A Tool for More Equal Health
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism a Key Driver for Job Creation and Enhanced Competitiveness
  4. CECENon-Harmonised Homologation of Mobile Machinery Costs € 90 Million per Year
  5. ILGA-EuropeMass Detention of Azeri LGBTI People - the LGBTI Community Urgently Needs Your Support
  6. European Free AllianceCatalans Have Won the Right to Have an Independent State
  7. ECR GroupBrexit: Delaying the Start of Negotiations Is Not a Solution
  8. EU2017EEPM Ratas in Poland: "We Enjoy the Fruits of European Cooperation Thanks to Solidarity"
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and UK Discuss Deepening of Global Comprehensive Strategic Partnership
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceEHLA Joins Commissioners Navracsics, Andriukaitis and Hogan at EU Week of Sport
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Representative Office Opens in Brussels to Foster Better Cooperation
  12. UNICEFSocial Protection in the Contexts of Fragility & Forced Displacement