EU-27 demonstrate unity at special meeting of European Council on Brexit

2 May 2017
EU's Brexit Summit in Belgium

Common guidelines for negotiations with UK adopted by EU-27

The heads of state and government of the 27 remaining EU member states have unanimously adopted the Brexit negotiating guidelines. The "EU-27" thus stand united for a properly regulated transition in which the interests of affected citizens will have priority.

The "EU-27" have adopted common guidelines for their negotiations with the United Kingdom. In this challenging and historically unique situation, the EU-27 are well prepared. They are acting in concert and will not let themselves be divided. After the meeting Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed that the unity demonstrated by the 27 member states with respect to Brexit has been "exemplary" to date.

There are to be no negotiations between the United Kingdom and individual member states, which means that the 27 states must agree on a common negotiating stance.

This is why the special meeting of the European Council, in the form of the EU-27, has now adopted negotiating guidelines. They are to lay the foundations for all further negotiations with the United Kingdom and thus also for the detailed negotiating mandate which will now be hammered out by the EU-27.

Below you will find an overview of the main objectives to be pursued by the negotiating guidelines adopted:

Phases of negotiations to be laid down: "separation" before "future relationship"

Why is this important? The negotiations with the United Kingdom will focus firstly on unpicking and winding up the country’s complex tapestry of relations with the EU, as well as regulating future relations between the EU and the UK. In the interests of achieving an orderly transition, the European Council has spoken out clearly and demanded a two-phase negotiation process.

Firstly, separation negotiations are to be held. Only once the salient points of these separation negotiations have been addressed and sufficient progress made, will negotiations on the future relationship begin. The range of issues to be addressed as part of the separation include the rights of citizens affected by Brexit and financial issues relating to the British withdrawal.

The Chancellor stressed that negotiations with the United Kingdom will be conducted "fairly" and "in friendship" – although it is clear that the EU-27 will defend its interests, just as the UK will be defending its interests.

The interests of our citizens must be upheld

Why is this important? A large number of German and EU citizens are directly affected by Brexit. They include German citizens who are currently living and working or studying in the UK, having exercised their right to freedom of movement within the EU. The freedom of movement regulations within the EU have hitherto guaranteed their status.

Many Germans live in the UK. Clarity regarding their future is to be achieved as swiftly as possible, to give them certainty on which to plan.

The adverse impacts of Brexit on the EU-27 must be limited

Why is this important? An intricate tapestry of connections currently links the United Kingdom and other EU member states – this applies, for instance, to businesses operating trans-nationally. Legal certainty regarding the consequences of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is to be achieved as swiftly as possible here too.

Close cooperation must continue in areas such as security and defence, and the fight against terrorism and organised crime. In future too close and trustful cooperation must be ensured in these areas in the interests of all parties.

The cohesion of the EU-27 must be underpinned and strengthened

Why is this important? The outcome of the referendum in the United Kingdom was a historic watershed in the 60 years of European unity. In this situation it is of elemental importance to ensure the cohesion of the remaining 27 member states.

The EU-27 has achieved this in the ten months or so since the British referendum – in spite of sometimes divergent interests of individual states. There have been no preliminary negotiations between any individual member state and the UK. The common negotiating guidelines are another milestone, demonstrating impressive unity on the part of EU-27.

The Chancellor stressed that the EU-27 must "not lose sight of " its own geostrategic interests in the face of the challenge posed by Brexit. Now it is especially important to ensure that the European position of the 27 states becomes "very clear" in the world.

What has happened so far?

On 23 June 2016 the British people voted for the United Kingdom to withdraw from the EU. For the first time in its history the EU is now facing the withdrawal of a member state.

Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union lays out the procedure that must be followed. The official withdrawal procedure was triggered by the UK’s official notification of its intention to leave on 29 March 2017.

The EU and the United Kingdom now have two years in which to negotiate an exit agreement. At the end of this two-year period the UK’s membership of the EU will end, unless the European Council and the United Kingdom agree unanimously to extend the period. Until its withdrawal the United Kingdom is a member of the EU with all the rights and obligations pertaining thereto.

At its special summit the European Council, meeting as the EU-27, has now adopted guidelines for the negotiations between the EU and the United Kingdom.

Where do we go from here?

The guidelines are the basis for the official negotiating mandate, which will be more extensive and more detailed. The 27 member states are expected to mandate the European Commission at the end of May. The European Commission will thus represent the EU in the negotiations, and it in turn will be represented by chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

The European Council has unanimously decided that negotiations must firstly deal with the separation. Only then can the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom be negotiated.

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