Michel Barnier made a statement regarding Brexit, in French, at a Press Conference following an EU General Affairs Council meeting on 27 February 2018.
In the lack of the provision of this statement in any other language, my interpretation of the speech is as follows:
In his statement, Barnier mentions that he is concerned that “the clock is ticking” and that there is little time left for negotiations with the UK between now and Autumn 2018, when the EU requires talks to have completed.
He announced that their draft text of a treaty for the Withdrawal Agreement will be released on 28 February 2018 ready for discussion with the remaining 27 member states and EU Parliament before being presented to the UK. The document consists of 120 pages containing 168 specific articles and will represent the Legal form of the commitments agreed to with the UK in December 2017.
The document in addition to the topics of Citizens Rights, Financial demands and Ireland will also cover the EU positions on other issues regarding the withdrawal.
Details for the Transition (Implementation) period are included in the Draft document and Barnier mentioned that there are still important differences of opinion with the UK regarding what is meant by the Transition (Implementation) period:
- The EU proposes that it end on 31 December 2020 while the UK wants a longer period – which is not possible.
- The EU wants to continue freedom of movement of Citizens during the Transition (Implementation) period whereas the UK wants the cut-off date to be the date of withdrawal
- There remain differences regarding
- The opt-in option for Justice and Home affairs
- The ability for the UK to conclude International Trade agreements
- The participation of the UK in committees of experts
- Consultation mechanisms during the Transition (Implementation) period regarding Fisheries and Foreign and Defence policy.
Currently, given these differences between the EU and the UK, the Transition (Implementation) period has yet to be agreed. Barnier states his readiness to discuss and negotiate these details with David Davis.
His final comments related to the future relationship between the EU and the UK and he mentioned that the EU had held numerous internal seminars with the remaining 27 member states and the EU Parliament covering topics such as Aviation, Fisheries, Security, Defence and Foreign Policy.
These seminars were used to emphasise the principles of the European Identity, the integrity of the internal market and the four freedoms which are non-negotiable as far as the EU 27 are concerned and Barnier will negotiate with the UK on that basis.