EU Commission Report on the Brexit Negotiations 12 Jul 2017

The EU recently published the Minutes of the 2220th meeting of the European Commission held in Brussels on Wednesday 12 July 2017, chaired by the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. (pdf)

One of the topics discussed at the meeting was the State of play of the negotiations on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (p16-p24). The report recorded in the minutes gives an insight into what the EU side really thinks of how the negotiations are progressing.

Michel Barnier had been invited to the meeting to report on the first round of negotiations between the EU and the UK.

He reported that

the UK had not (yet) been engaged in the negotiations or spelled out it’s positions”

and noted that

David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, did not regard his direct involvement in these negotiations as his priority and there was also a possibility that he might not be present at the full opening session of the July cycle of talks

The issue of the role of the European Court of Justice was mentioned in connection with the protection of Citizens Rights

he noted that the UK wanted to apply its own law, which could change over time, and it was refusing any role for the Court of Justice of the European Union, even though it was the only body with jurisdiction to interpret and implement Union law

and on governance of the withdrawal agreement

On the question of governance, he explained that the Union was proposing to set up a joint EU-UK committee to manage the withdrawal agreement once it had been concluded, with the Court of Justice as the dispute resolution body, in line with the mandate given to the Commission.

Regarding the Financial Settlement,

he announced that his aim was to ensure that the United Kingdom acknowledged the following week that it had financial obligations towards the Union, so that talks could begin on the methodology to be applied to determine the amount involved

On Ireland and Northern Ireland

the Union’s objective was to preserve the ‘Good Friday’ Agreement in its entirety and to maintain the Common Travel Area, while safeguarding the integrity of the single market

During the discussion that followed a number of points were raised including:

the short-term budgetary questions arising as a result of the UK’s withdrawal from the Union, particularly from 2019 and in view of outstanding commitments that must be fulfilled

the British public’s lack of understanding of the financial aspects of the UK’s withdrawal from the Union, and the need to inform the public in order to explain that commitments undertaken as a Member State created a legal and financial obligation

the impact that the process of the UK’s withdrawal from the Union was already having on ongoing programmes, particularly in the area of research; this risked
jeopardising their viability by creating uncertainty about the financing granted to the UK partners of consortia

the difficulties that might be caused by any potential absence of the chief negotiator on the British side, since this risked jeopardising the negotiations by multiplying the number of negotiators

Mr Barnier acknowledged the extreme sensitivity and the complexity of the Irish question.

he had established a close working relationship with the Irish government in order to identify viable solutions. In this regard, he noted the particular problem of the trade in animals and animal products owing to the sanitary issues raised and the difficulty of ensuring controls without reintroducing a physical border with Northern Ireland. However, he pointed out that the Irish economy was less dependent on the British economy than in the past and that the UK remained the guarantor of the Irish ‘Good Friday’ agreement.

In winding up the discussion, President Jean-Claude Juncker expressed his concern about the question of the stability and accountability of the UK negotiator

Winding up the discussion, the PRESIDENT expressed his concern about the question of the stability and accountability of the UK negotiator and his apparent lack of involvement, which risked jeopardising the success of the negotiations. He invited Mr Barnier to remain firm on this point and not to accept discussions at the purely technical level with negotiators who had no political mandate, while fundamental political questions still remained