Ladies and gentlemen,
Many thanks Sven to you and the rest of your team.
Minister Mikser and I have just had a good discussion with the Ministers of the EU27, three days before a crucial European Council.
Together, we took stock of the progress that was achieved last Friday with Prime Minister Theresa May on citizens’ rights, Ireland and the financial settlement.
It was an opportunity for me to thank the Ministers for their continuous support. Our strong unity played a key role in Friday’s agreement.
Tomorrow, I will be in the European Parliament, and as always I look forward to their Resolution.
Ladies and gentlemen, Friday’s agreement was an important step forward. It was a first result in the negotiations.
It puts the talks with the UK on a better track to organise the withdrawal in an orderly manner.
However, I would recommend that everyone remains cautious and calm:
It will be for the European Council to decide on Friday first if sufficient progress has been made based on the Commission’s recommendation.
Even if the European Council does recognise sufficient progress on Friday, we will have a final agreement only if the political commitments taken by Theresa May on behalf of the British government last Friday are respected. We will be vigilant.
We will not accept any backtracking from the UK on commitments in the Joint Report. All our points of agreement are now closed.
Our working method has been successful so far because we have put things in the right order.
We need to keep the same method in phase 2.
First, we will need to ensure that the Joint Report is translated into legally binding and precise language for the Withdrawal Agreement. What I told Ministers is that we will be ready to present a draft of the withdrawal agreement early in the new year.
Secondly, if the European Council adopts additional guidelines for a transition and if the Council gives us the mandate to do so at the next General Affairs Council end of January, we will start negotiations on the transition arrangements.
Thirdly, we have discussed with Ministers the need to continue our internal preparations on the different elements for the future relationship. Many Ministers said that the UK must clarify what it wants.
One last point: « sufficient progress » does not mean « full progress ». There are other points to discuss for the UK’s orderly withdrawal, for instance:
The governance of the Withdrawal Agreement itself, including dispute settlement and measures in case of non-compliance;
Other separation issues which have either not been finalised – such as on Euratom – or have not yet started – such as on the protection of data which have been processed before Brexit;
And of course Ireland, where the UK has made important commitments, but where much work remains to be done in a distinct strand of negotiations. On this, all Ministers agree. Ireland requires specific solutions because it is in a unique situation.
Thank you very much.