- EU 27 leaders have adopted the Union’s Brexit guidelines in the first minute of their summit.
- Unanimous decision has underscored the principle of “people, money, and Ireland” laid out by EU Council President Tusk.
- Brexit talks with Britain will not start until after June 8 when the UK will vote in general elections.
The leaders of the 27 EU member states have adopted unanimously the guidelines for the European Union’s talks with Britain for the latter’s exit from the Union, i.e. Brexit, in the first minute of their summit.
British Prime Minister Theresa May formally triggered on March 29, 2017, Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, which deals with exit from the European Union, initiating a two-year process of negotiations with Brussels.
May’s triggering of Article 50 to start Brexit came some 9 months after in their June 2016 referendum, the majority of the Brits voted in favor of Brexit (51.9% to 48.1%).
A public opinion poll has found that for the first time a narrow majority of the Brits deem supporting Brexit a wrong decision.
May has recently admitted that a great deal of the existing intra-EU arrangements involving the UK such as the free movement of people might have to be allowed to continue for at least some time after Brexit, if not indefinitely.
On Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivered a tough talk speech on Brexit telling the Brits to have no illusions of privileged treatment, which the British Prime Minister has construed as evidence that the remaining 27 EU member states “are lining up to oppose” the UK.
‘Ready and Together’
European Union leaders unanimously agreed the negotiating guidelines for the upcoming Brexit talks with UK, announced the press service of the European Council which is made up of the leaders of all EU member states.
The state leaders of the 27 remaining EU members met in Brussels on Saturday, April 29, exactly a month after Britain’s Brexit notification.
It was the first EU summit following the notification, and the first without the British Prime Minister.
The summit meeting was brief, as all EU 27 leaders approved within the first minute of their meeting the guidelines that had been drafted in advance under the leadership of European Council President Donald Tusk, a former Prime Minister of Poland.
According to reports citing EU officials, the leaders burst into applause after making the decision to approve the guidelines, which were first published by the European Council President on March 31, two days after the UK’s Brexit notification.
Following the agreement, the European Council President said on Twitter that the “firm and fair political mandate” for the Brexit negotiations was ready.
“We are ready… we are together,” said in turn the EU’s chief negotiator on Brexit, Michel Barnier, a former Foreign Minister of France and twice France’s EU Commissioner.
Thus, the EU leaders agreed with Tusk who on the day before the summit sent them a letter pointing out that Britain must first settle the issues of “people, money and Ireland” with the European Union before it can expect to get a deal with Europe for the period after Brexit.
This means that the the EU must secure the best guarantees for the rights of its citizens in Britain (presently, there are about 3 million EU citizens residing in the UK, and about 1.1 million British expats in the EU); Britain must settle all financial obligations undertaken by the EU 28 (the sum in question is estimated at some USD 64 billion); and that the EU should aim to avoid a hard border between the Republic of Ireland, which is an EU member state, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK.
The Brexit negotiations between the EU and Britain will not begin before June 8 which is when the latter is going to hold general elections.
“I want to underline the outstanding unity of all the 27 leaders on the guidelines for our negotiations with the UK. They were adopted immediately after we started the summit, which bodes well for the negotiations,” European Council President Donald Tusk said in a statement after the summit.
“We now have unanimous support from all the 27 member states and the EU institutions, giving us a strong political mandate for these negotiations,” he added.
“We are united not only on the substance, but also on the method of conducting the Brexit talks… before negotiating our future relations with the UK, we must first achieve sufficient progress on citizens’ rights, finances and the border issue in Ireland,” Tusk elaborated.