EC agrees Brexit transition period lasting to end of 2020
The 28 commissioners met on Wednesday to approve guidelines for the EU’s negotiating position.
The European Commission has agreed that the transition period to a new post-Brexit relationship being sought by the UK should last until the end of 2020, chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said.
The 28 commissioners, including president Jean-Claude Juncker, met on Wednesday to approve guidelines for the EU’s negotiating position on the transition drawn up by Mr Barnier, which would see Britain observe EU rules and regulations following the date of Brexit in March 2019 while having no role in deciding them.
In a Brussels press conference, Mr Barnier repeated the commission’s position that this must include accepting the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and continuing to allow free movement of people to settle and work until the end of the period.
In her speech in Florence in September, Mrs May suggested that what she referred to as an “implementation period” should last for around two years, potentially stretching into spring 2021.
But Mr Barnier said the commission had agreed that the best date to end the transition would be on December 31 2020, which marks the end of the EU’s multi-year budget. This would mean a transition of about 21 months.
We have sent a Recommendation to the Council (#Article50) to begin discussions on the next phase of the orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union: https://t.co/b3D8kQ0Tqd #Brexit pic.twitter.com/owxEU8ll2l— European Commission 🇪🇺 (@EU_Commission) December 20, 2017
Mr Barnier indicated he is working to a timetable of reaching a political agreement on the future UK/EU relationship by October 2018, in time for it to be published alongside a new treaty containing the terms of agreement on withdrawal and transition.
His comments made clear that he envisages a document falling some way short of a full free trade agreement of the type being sought by Mrs May.
He said guidelines on the future relationship would be presented for adoption by the leaders of the remaining 27 EU states at a scheduled European Council summit in March.
He added: “We will be working on a new very important document that needs to be finalised by October 2018, parallel to the Article 50 treaty – a political document which will accompany the withdrawal agreement and which should clearly stipulate and outline the shape of our future relationship.”
We have reached an important step on the road to delivering the smooth and orderly Brexit that people voted for in June last year. pic.twitter.com/C4z2mG41aP— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) December 18, 2017
Mr Barnier warned that “logically speaking”, when the UK leaves the European institutions in March 2019, it will no longer be covered by around 750 international agreements – including dozens of free trade deals – negotiated by the EU while it was a member.
“It will be up to the (European) Council to appraise the feasibility, the value, the need for the UK to be able to continue to benefit during this period from some of these agreements,” he said.
“The UK needs to prepare as of now to be able to replicate these agreements. They need to ensure that already now they have the administrative capacity to carry out these negotiations to conclude these agreements.
“It’s always useful to remember that when we talk about red tape here in Brussels, this red tape and bureaucracy works in many areas on behalf of 28 member states. Therefore … when a country is no longer a member of the EU naturally they need to have that administrative capacity.”
#TeamJunckerEU meeting today: #RuleofLaw in #Poland, #Brexit negotiating directives for the next phase of #Article50, new #CMU framework for investment firms, visa reciprocity and visa liberalisation report. pic.twitter.com/kHbZXEBn4i— Margaritis Schinas (@MargSchinas) December 20, 2017
The UK will not be able to conclude its own trade deals with countries outside the EU during the transition period, but will be able to carry out “exploratory” talks in preparation for striking deals after 2020, he said.
The UK will be covered by all EU rules during the transition, including the Common Fisheries Policy, and new arrangements will have to be made to “consult” Britain on the allocation of annual fish quotas, as it will no longer have a place at the table when they are decided.
Negotiations on the transition period will begin after a meeting of the EU’s General Affairs Council to approve the guidelines on January 29, said Mr Barnier.
He appeared to indicate that Spain would have a veto on any transitional arrangements covering Gibraltar, saying decisions on the issue would be “made for the 27, unanimously, by consensus”.
Mr Barnier repeated his position that the “consequence” of the red lines set out by Mrs May, of the UK leaving the single market and customs union and the jurisdiction of the ECJ, was that the EU would only be able to offer a future partnership similar to the free trade agreements struck with Canada, South Korea and Japan.
While noting that each of these agreements is “tailor made” to the specific circumstances of each country, he said each was underpinned by “the same approach, the same logic … and that will be the situation with the UK, in the light of what they have said their position is themselves”.
The agreement on the future would cover not only economic and trade links, but also specific agreements on areas like aviation, as well as judicial co-operation, security, defence and foreign affairs, he said.
But he poured cold water on the idea that free trade for the financial sector could be included, as Britain wants, saying: “We don’t have any free trade agreement, as far as I’m aware, that provides for automatic access to financial services.”
Mr Barnier said the political declaration he anticipates in October would be a “short document”, but added: “It should be fairly precise, so that everybody knows clearly on both sides, the EU and UK sides, where we are going and what we should be doing together.”