Last Saturday, on April 29th 2017, a Special European Council including the twenty-seven Member States met in Brussels to discuss the negotiation premises following the implementation of Article 50 TFEU by the United Kingdom on March 29th 2017.

Donald Tusk, as the President of the European Council, expressed himself on this special meeting and outlined the harmony between all Member States on the implementation of this exceptional procedure: “I want to underline the outstanding unity of all the 27 leaders on the guidelines for our negotiations with the UK. We now have unanimous support from all the 27 member states and the EU institutions, giving us a strong political mandate for these negotiations.” Michel Barnier, EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, explained that this unity between all Member States and the EU does not aim to become a common front against the UK but “it is also in its interest” to negotiate with the EU as a whole and “it would boost the chances of a deal”.

At this meeting, Member States leaders adopted guidelines which define the procedure to be followed with the United Kingdom and the EU‘s position on various areas to be dealt with during the negotiations to come. Indeed, the guidelines highlight objectives which will have to be preserved throughout the exit process such has “the interest of the European Union, those of its citizens, its business and its Member States”.

United in a common front, negotiations will be handle with “transparency and as a single package”. This means that negotiations will have to be conducted at a supranational level and as it was clearly expressed in the guidelines “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”. The European Union and its Member States want to give the impression that they are as ready as ever to engage negotiations and that they will not be compromising on the values and core principles upheld by the European Union.

As stated in the guidelines, the negotiations will be focused on several principles.

First and foremost, they will need to clarify the situation of the European citizens, which Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, underlined as “our priority number one”. The uncertainties of the Brexit made the fate of citizens a priority. As it was clarified later on by Donald Tusk, “we are talking about four and a half million people, Europeans residing in the UK, and Britons living on the continent”. All agreed on the fact that “we need real guarantees for our people to live, work and study in the UK, and the same goes for the Brits”.

The guidelines underlined a few other important matters such as the will for UK and the European Union to remain close partner and the integrity of the single market. Nonetheless, it was made crystal clear in the text that the UK will no longer be able to enjoy the same rights and benefits as it did as a Member State of the European Union.

Following this meeting, the negotiations will officially begin mid-June after the legislative elections in the UK take place. The guidelines might therefore evolve with regards to the evolution of the discussions and the political outcomes of the British as well as the French elections. Donald Tusk explained that, he and Members States leaders agree on the fact that, they “want to assure you that as soon as the UK offers real guarantees for our citizens, we will find a solution rapidly”.

   Alice Poidevin

Sources

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/european-council/2017/04/29/

Guidelines adopted by the European Council on April 29th 2017 http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2017/04/29-euco-brexit-guidelines/

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/apr/29/eu-leaders-set-to-take-tough-stance-in-special-brexit-summi