Press statement by Michel Barnier following the fifth round of Article 50 negotiations with the United Kingdom
Good afternoon to all of you.
Ladies and gentlemen, dear David,
Theresa May’s Florence speech has given these negotiations much needed momentum.
We worked constructively this week. We clarified certain points. But without making any great steps forward.
We still have a common goal: the desire to reach an agreement on the UK’s withdrawal and to outline our future relationship, when the time comes. From the EU side, this is what President Donald Tusk very clearly said three days ago.
Our negotiations are framed within in this perspective.
We share the same objectives as the UK:
- To protect the rights of all citizens concerned regarding the consequences of withdrawal.
- To preserve the peace process in Northern Ireland and cooperation on the island of Ireland.
- To honour at 28 the commitments taken at 28.
For us, from the EU side, achieving and realising these three big objectives is the condition for engaging in a discussion, as soon as possible, on a new ambitious, long-lasting partnership.
Where are we at the end of this fifth round?
More precisely, on each of the main subjects linked to the UK’s withdrawal:
1 On citizens’ rights:
- We have two common objectives:
- That the Withdrawal Agreement has direct effect, which is essential to guarantee the rights of all citizens in the long-term.
- That the interpretation of these rights is fully consistent in the European Union and in the United Kingdom.
- On these points, we will continue to work on the specific instruments and mechanisms which will allow us to translate this into reality. This means for us the role of the European Court of Justice.
- Furthermore, divergences still exist on the possibility of family reunification and on the exportation of social benefits after Brexit, both of which we want.
- For us, for example, it is important that any European citizen living in the UK can – in 10 or 15 years’ time – bring his/her parents to the UK, as would be the case for British citizens living in the EU.
- In the same vain, an EU citizen who has worked for 20 years in the UK should be able to move to an EU Member State and still benefit from his/her disability allowance, under the same conditions as British citizens in the EU.
- Finally, an important point for the Member States of the Union: the UK has informed us of its intention to put in place a simplified procedure which allows citizens to assert their rights. We will study attentively the practical details of this procedure, which should really be simple for citizens.
- On Ireland, ladies and gentlemen:
- This week we advanced on the joint principles on the continuation of the Common Travel Area and I welcome this.
- We continued our intensive work on mapping out areas of cooperation that operate on a North South basis on the island of Ireland.
- There is more work to do in order to build a full picture of the challenges to North-South cooperation resulting from the UK, and therefore Northern Ireland, leaving the EU legal framework.
- This is necessary in order to identify the solutions.
- This week, we agreed that the six principles proposed by the EU in September would guide our work on protecting the Good Friday Agreement in all its dimensions.
- Finally, on the financial settlement:
- Theresa May confirmed in her Florence speech that the UK will honour commitments it has made during the period of its membership. This is an important commitment.
- The UK told us again this week that it still could not clarify these commitments. Therefore, there was no negotiation on this, but we did have technical discussions which were useful, albeit technical.
- We are, therefore, at a deadlock on this question. This is extremely worrying for European taxpayers and those who benefit from EU policies.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This is my summary of our work on the three main topics this week.
On this basis, and as things stand at present, I am not able to recommend to the European Council next week to open discussions on the future relationship.
I will say before you again that trust is needed between us if this future relationship is to be solid, ambitious and long-lasting. This trust will come with clarity and the respect of all commitments made together.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Before concluding, I would like to make just one observation.
At one of our recent press conferences, one of you asked me when the European Union would be “ready to make concessions.”
We will not ask the UK to “make concessions”. The agreement that we are working towards will not be built on “concessions.”
This is not about making “concessions” on the rights of citizens.
This is not about making “concessions” on the peace process in Northern Ireland.
This is not about making “concessions” on the thousands of investment projects and the men and women involved in them in Europe.
In these complex and difficult negotiations, we have shared objectives, we have shared obligations, we have shared duties, and we will only succeed with shared solutions. That is our responsibility.
Since Florence, there is a new dynamic. I remain convinced that with political will, decisive progress is within our reach in the coming weeks.
My responsibility as the Commission’s negotiator, on behalf of the European Union, and with the trust of President Juncker, is to find the way to make progress, while fully respecting the conditions of the European Council, as agreed unanimously on 29 April – which is my mandate – and in constant dialogue with the European Parliament who has twice voiced its opinion, by a very large majority.
That is my mind-set a couple of days ahead of the next European Council