27 Feb 2018


Brexit, Brussels, Brussels Daily

Main results – General Affairs Council (Art. 50)

EU27 ministers discussed the state of play of the Brexit negotiations and started the preparations for the European Council (Article 50).

For more details see here

NOTE: The Brexit legal text of draft Withdrawal Agreement is to be published tomorrow Wednesday.

Remarks by Michel Barnier at the press point at the end of the General Affairs Council (Article 50)

Thank you, Ekaterina, and hello to each and every one of you.

As we do regularly with my assistant Sabine Weyand, I participated in this General Affairs Council and made an objective point of this negotiation, at the moment we are three and a half weeks away from of the Council. European.

At this moment when “the clock is ticking”, I am concerned about the short time there is between now and next autumn. Since it is next autumn, in a few months, that we will have to reach an agreement with the United Kingdom, on the conditions for its orderly withdrawal from the European Union, as it wished.

This is why the College of Commissioners will discuss tomorrow a draft text for this withdrawal agreement.

And, if you do not mind, I will introduce you to this draft text which is intended to be discussed with the Member States and in close connection with the European Parliament.
And it is only after this discussion at 27 and with the European Parliament that we will put forward this project, I say this project, on the negotiating table with the United Kingdom, as soon as possible. That being said, to continue to move forward transparently, we will publish, as I have become accustomed to now, this project. And I think this publication will be useful, not only for you, for your work as a journalist, but also for everyone to take a good look at the topics we need to agree on. I also think that this publication will be useful for the public debate I am very keen on regarding all Brexit issues. Before we meet again tomorrow for this publication, I want to tell you that this project of 120 pages and 168 articles contains no surprises:

  • It will legally translate our December common commitments, which are contained in our Joint Report, on citizens’ rights, including the procedures that must be simple for European citizens in the UK, the Financial Regulation and of course Ireland. , important point where tomorrow we will translate the political commitments made with the United Kingdom into a legal text.
  • The text I will be presenting tomorrow will also contain our positions on the other issues of the withdrawal, topics on which there has been no progress since December and even on which there have been no negotiations for the moment. And that worries me. I hope that on the basis of a legal text, of this draft treaty of withdrawal, we will be able to move forward more easily.
  • Finally, tomorrow’s text, this draft, will contain our text on the transition that you already know about since it was published several weeks ago and that it has been the subject of several discussions with the 27 Member States and with the European Parliament. On this subject, I want to say, and I said it before the Ministers, that there remain important differences with the United Kingdom, about what we mean by transition, the conditions and the dimension of this transition:
  • Over the duration of the transition, we logically proposed that it end on 31 December 2020, at the same time as the multiannual budget period. The United Kingdom wishes we seem to want to keep this period open, which is not possible.
  • There is also a divergence on the dynamic application of the acquis. During the transition, when the whole acquis is maintained – the single market, the customs union, the European policies – obviously, everyone will follow the same rules. And we can not accept the risk of regulatory divergence for the duration of this period.
  • For the treatment of citizens’ rights, there is also a difference. The British would like to differentiate between citizens who arrived before the withdrawal date, that is, before March 29, 2019, and those who will arrive after that date, that is, during the transition period; however, during this transitional period, it is clear that the freedom of movement of persons will be maintained and therefore we want citizens arriving before and during the transition period to be treated in the same way, fairly.
  • There is also a divergence on the opt-in option for justice and home affairs;
  • And on international agreements;
  • And on the participation of the United Kingdom in the committees of experts;
  • And finally, on consultation mechanisms during the transition period, for example concerning fisheries, or foreign and defense policy. That’s a lot of differences at this point. In view of these differences, I remain objectively, and I regret, the evaluation that I told you three weeks ago. At this stage, given these differences, the transition is not achieved. I am ready to discuss all these points of divergence with David Davis quickly. It is essential that we advance, through political discussion, political negotiation, beyond all the light and all the technical evaluation that we are doing right now, yesterday and even today, with the British.

Finally, a word about the future relationship. Since December, we have organised with the Council 12 internal preparation seminars with the Member States. At the same time, meetings were held with the European Parliament on such topics as aviation, fisheries, security, defense and foreign policy. And these seminars are extremely useful for us, to build this common understanding of all issues for all these sectors, reaffirming each time the principles, which are those of our European identity, the integrity of the internal market, the indivisibility of four freedoms, and the non-negotiable autonomy of the 27. By asking that we understand well, that everyone understands well, it is according to these principles, in whose name I negotiate, taking into account also the red lines asked for by the United Kingdom itself, that we will work when the time comes, the European Council will say in what framework and with what mandate, on the future relationship. I would also like to say that we are working on these subjects in full confidence with the European Parliament for I thank them. There it is, thanks.

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