The Negotiation Process Explained

Brexit Negotiations

Find out how the Brexit negotiations will proceed. 
Once the UK triggers Article 50 on March 29th, the UK will be negotiating its exit with the EU as a whole, and not with individual countries. This means that any agreement between Ireland and the UK in relation to Northern Ireland, for example, would require overall EU agreement.

Brexit Negotiations

The objective of the EU negotiators will be to get unanimous or strong consensus agreement in the European Council on the withdrawal agreement. If that is not possible, the Treaty states that the EU can agree by a ‘qualified majority’ vote i.e. 72% of member states (19 out of 27), and 65% of the combined population of the 27 states. As a result, no member state will have a veto over the withdrawal agreement with the UK. The withdrawal agreement must have the consent of the European Parliament, by a simple majority, before the European Council adopts the decision.

The EU is expected, as a key element of the exit negotiations, to require a substantial financial contribution from the UK to the EU budget. This is to cover the UK share of EU financial liabilities, and certain ongoing commitments (such as future pensions of British nationals working in EU institutions). A recent paper has put this figure at anywhere between €24.5b and €72.8b39.

Article 50 also outlines the timeline for withdrawal, stating that, ‘The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period’.

The timetable issue was further clarified by the EU Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier, in early December when he stated that if Article 50 is triggered by the end of March 2017, the negotiations need to be concluded by October 2018. The remaining months will be required for the ratification process by the European Parliament and Council.

In summary, therefore, the UK will withdraw from the EU in one of three circumstances:

  • Within two years, with agreement on a deal,
  • At the end of two years, with no agreement,
  • After more than two years, with the unanimous agreement to an extension by all Member

In the event that there is no withdrawal agreement after two years, and Member States do not unanimously agree to extend the negotiation discussions, the implications are that the UK is no longer a member of the EU.

Negotiation of a new arrangement between the EU and the UK

It is unclear at this stage whether the withdrawal agreement will deal only with the withdrawal issues, or whether it will at least contain some broad principles of agreement on the future political and trading relationship between the EU and the UK. It should be noted that Article 50 appears to provide some scope for this, stating the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union.

It is also unclear when negotiations on the new arrangements between the EU and UK will commence. As per Article 50, the negotiations between the UK and the EU on any new arrangement following exit will be conducted under Article 218 (3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

However, while the exit negotiations are to be concluded within two years, the negotiations on the new arrangement between the EU and the UK are likely to take much longer than this. There is no timetable in the EU Treaties for the conclusion of such negotiations.

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