21 Mar 2018


Brexit, Brussels, Brussels Daily

Remarks by President Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, following the Tripartite Social Summit

Good afternoon. Let me first of all thank the social partners for a good and constructive summit. We discussed the economic and social situation in the EU. Our economy continues to grow above expectations, employment is up and investments are recovering. However, economic growth has little point if it does not result in a better quality of life for our citizens. I discussed with the social partners how to combine social justice and economic efficiency, so that quality of life, which is at the heart of EU policies, continues to improve.

An important part of our exchange was devoted to the European Council, where I plan to address the risks stemming from the US approach on trade, Brexit negotiations and Russia’s actions.

First, on Brexit. I have some good news for Prime Minister Theresa May. News that has been awaited in London, but also in all the other EU capitals. I have just recommended to our leaders that we welcome, in principle, the agreement on transition. In practice, the transition phase will allow to delay all the negative consequences of Brexit by another 21 months. It is important – not least to our people and businesses – to buy this time, so that everyone is prepared for the real impact of Brexit. On Friday, leaders will also discuss how to conduct further negotiations, in order to minimise the negative effect of Brexit on our citizens and businesses. In this context, we will adopt a first set of guidelines on the future EU-UK relationship.

Secondly, on trade. With our full support, the Commission is working hard to ensure that the EU is exempted from the US tariffs on steel and aluminium. European exports do not constitute a security threat to America. As close friends, allies and partners of the United States, we are putting forward the case for exemption, and continuing our dialogue with the Americans.

Last week I appealed to President Trump for trade talks instead of trade war. I still hope for a positive reply from Washington and here I am a cautious optimist. Meanwhile, leaders will discuss how to respond to President Trump’s overall approach to global trade, which could negatively affect jobs all over the world. If the United States turned protectionist for good, the whole world would have a big problem. We are not there yet, and there is still time to act sensibly. In our view, we have to focus on multilateral solutions that will address unfair trading practices. We share the American concern about global overcapacity. In fact, we have been sharing it for years. This is why last year we agreed – together with the United States, China and the other G20 partners – to sort it out together. If this work is not ambitious enough, and I agree that more could be done, let’s discuss how to improve it. The aim is clear: to fix the problem of overcapacity at the global level this year. Our collective challenge is to avoid disruption to transatlantic relations and the rules-based international trade order. The stakes are very high.

And, finally, on Russia and the Salisbury attack. I have no doubt that all EU leaders will express solidarity with the UK. But I will also suggest that we draw practical conclusions as to what this means for the EU. To me, it is clear that we should reinforce our preparedness for future attacks, including in cooperation with NATO. And we need to increase our resilience to hybrid threats, such as undermining trust in our democracies through fake news or election-meddling. This seems to be particularly relevant in view of the recent revelations about Cambridge Analytica. In this context, we will address the need to guarantee transparent practices as well as full protection of citizens’ privacy, and personal data, by social networks and digital platforms.


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