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EU Article 50 Taskforce

The EU Taskforce on Article 50 negotiations with the UK is in charge of preparing and conducting the negotiations with the UK, taking into account the framework of its future relationship with the European Union.

It is responsible for coordinating the European Commission’s work on all strategic, operational, legal and financial issues related to negotiations with the United Kingdom

Details at

https://ec.europa.eu/info/departments/taskforce-article-50-negotiations-united-kingdom_en

The Chief Negotiator is Michel Barnier and the deputy Chief Negotiator is Sabine Weyand.

Here is an organisation chart of the team dated April 2017

Early General Election

Theresa May has announced an early general election to take place on 8th June 2017. She made the announcemnt on Tuesday 18th April 2017 outside 10 Downing Street.

Here is the full announcement (also available as a pdf file HERE):

I have just chaired a meeting of the Cabinet where we agreed that the Government should call a general election to be held on 8th June. I want to explain the reasons for that decision, what will happen next and the choice facing the British people when you come to vote in this election. Last summer after the country voted to leave the European Union, Britain needed certainty, stability and strong leadership and since I became Prime Minister the Government has delivered precisely that. Despite predictions of immediate financial and economic danger since the referendum we have seen consumer confidence remain high, record numbers of jobs and economic growth that has exceeded all expectations.

We have also delivered on the mandate that we were handed by the referendum result. Britain is leaving the European Union and there can be no turning back. And as we look to the future the Government has the right plan for negotiating our new relationship with Europe. We want a deep and special partnership between a strong and successful European Union and a United Kingdom that is free to chart it’s own way in the world. That means we will regain control of our own money, our own laws and our own borders and we will be free to strike trade deals with old friends and new partners all around the world.

This is the right approach and it is in the national interest, but the other political parties oppose it. At this moment of enormous national significance there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division. The country is coming together, but Westminster is not. In recent weeks Labour has threatened to vote against the final agreement we reach with the European Union, the Liberal Democrats have said they want to grind the business of government to a standstill, the SNP say they will vote against the legislation that formally repeals Britain’s membership of the European Union and unelected members of the House of Lords have vowed to fight us every step of the way. Our opponents believe that because the Government’s majority is so small, our resolve will weaken and that they can force us to change course.

They are wrong.

They underestimate our determination to get the job done and I am not prepared to let them endanger the security of millions of working people across the country because what they are doing jeopardises the work we must do to prepare for Brexit at home and it weakens the Government’s negotiating position in Europe. If we do not hold a general election now their political game-playing will continue and the negotiations with the European Union will reach their most difficult stage in the run-up to the next scheduled election. Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit and it will cause damaging uncertainty and instability to the country.

So we need a general election and we need one now because we have at this moment a one-off chance to get this done while the European Union agrees its negotiating position and before the detailed talks begin. I have only recently and reluctantly come to this conclusion. Since I became Prime Minister I have said that there should be no election until 2020, but now I have concluded that the only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead is to hold this election and seek your support for the decisions I must take.

And so tomorrow I will move a motion in the House of Commons calling for a general election to be held on the 8th of June. That motion, as set out by the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, will require a two-thirds majority of the House of Commons. So I have a simple challenge to the opposition parties. You have criticised the Government’s vision for Brexit, you have challenged our objectives, you have threatened to block the legislation we put before Parliament. This is your moment to show you mean it, to show you are notopposing the Government for the sake of it, to show that you do not treat politics as a game.

Let us tomorrow vote for an election, let us put forward our plans for Brexit and our alternative programmes for government and then let the people decide. And the decision facing the country will be all about leadership. It will be a choice between strong and stable leadership in the national interest with me as your Prime Minister, or weak and unstable coalition government led by Jeremy Corbyn, propped up by the Liberal Democrats who want to reopen the divisions of the referendum and Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP.

Every vote for the Conservatives will make it harder for opposition politicians who want to stop me from getting the job done. Every vote for the Conservatives will make me stronger when I negotiate for Britain with the prime ministers, presidents and chancellors of the European Union. Every vote for the Conservatives will mean we can stick to our plan for a stronger Britain and take the right long-term decisions for a more secure future.

It was with reluctance that I decided the country needs this election, but it is with strong conviction that I say it is necessary to secure the strong and stable leadership the country needs to see us through Brexit and beyond. So, tomorrow, let the House of Commons vote for an election, let everybody put forward their proposals for Brexit and their programmes for Government, and let us remove the risk of uncertainty and instability and continue to give the country the strong and stable leadership it demands.

In order for the election to take place at least 2/3rds of MPs must agree to a motion in the House of Commons.

Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, general elections are scheduled to take place every five years and the next general election was scheduled to take place on 7 May 2020. However, the Fixed-term Parliaments Act allows for an earlier election to take place:

    if a motion for an early general election is agreed either by at least two-thirds of the whole House or without division

or

    if a motion of no confidence is passed and no alternative government is confirmed by the Commons within 14 days.

At least two-thirds of the total number of MPs, 434 MPs, must vote for the motion to trigger an early general election. The motion could be passed without a division if there are no objections in the Chamber.

MPs voted on the following motion on 19th April 2017:

That there will be an early parliamentary general election

which was approved by 522 to 13

Thus, a general election has been scheduled for 8th June 2017.

EU Parliament Brexit Negotiation Guidelines

The EU Parliament has agreed their own set of guidelines regarding how negoitiations with the UK should be conducted. (The withdrawal negotiations can only be concluded with the consent of the European Parliament)

The Joint Motion for a Resolution is titled :

The European Parliament resolution on negotiations with the United Kingdom following its notification that it intends to withdraw from the European Union

and was prepared by Guy Verhofstadt and others.

The vote was 516 – 133 (with 50 abstentions) in favour of the motion on 5 April 2017.

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=MOTION&reference=P8-RC-2017-0237&language=EN

Overall, in many respects, the guidelines are similar to those proposed in the guidelines for negotiation produced by Donald Tusk.

One interesting entry (item 27) states:

27. Takes note that many citizens of the United Kingdom have expressed strong opposition to losing the rights they currently enjoy pursuant to Article 20 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union; proposes that the EU-27 examine how to mitigate this within the limits of Union primary law whilst fully respecting the principles of reciprocity, equity, symmetry and non-discrimination;

There has been mention in the past of the creation of some form of European Citizen membership where individual UK citizens could pay for a type of associate membership which would retain some of the benefits currently enjoyed as EU Citizens. Whether this would ever be implemented, or in fact even discussed as part of the Brexit negotiations, remains to be seen, but it is interesting to note that it has been included in these guidelines.

Full details of the debate on this resolution can be found on the European Parliament website at

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-%2f%2fEP%2f%2fTEXT%2bCRE%2b20170405%2bTOC%2bDOC%2bXML%2bV0%2f%2fEN&language=EN

Verhofstadt tweeted his speech at

https://twitter.com/GuyVerhofstadt/status/849531889446789120

and this is a transcript:

Guy Verhofstadt, on behalf of the ALDE Group. –

Mr President, I have the feeling that it was a very sad moment on Wednesday of last week when the British ambassador gave his letter to President Tusk. That was my feeling anyway: a very sad moment.

It is true, naturally, that the relationship between Britain and Europe was never an easy relationship, let us recognise that. It was never a love affair and certainly not a question of wild passion. I think it was a little bit like a marriage of convenience, if I can use that term.

It was already clear, dear colleagues, from the beginning. In the 1950s Britain decided against membership of the European Coal and Steel Community. Attlee and Labour did not want it, and it was Churchill and the Tories who were in favour, it is good to recall this.

And in 1955 at the start of the Common Market, Britain walked away from the negotiating table.

In the early years of the Union it was the British Prime Minister Macmillan who looked at the continent with nothing less than suspicion. What were they cooking up there in Brussels, were they really discussing coal and steel and customs union, or were they also talking politics in Brussels, plotting on foreign policy? Oh, God forbid, defence matters even!

So British Prime Minister Macmillan wrote to his foreign minister, and, I quote, I have the quote here: For the first time since Napoleon the major continental powers are united in a positive economic grouping, but considerable political aspects, and to his own surprise, Macmillan had to admit this new experiment, and I quote further, was not directed against Britain.

So when Britain finally joined the European Union in 1973 after, as we all know, several blockades by General de Gaulle, the headlines were festive. You have to read all the British press in 1973, it was a great day for Britain to join the European Union. Let us be honest about this, it was only a short honeymoon, as we know, because Margaret Thatcher asked for her money back and her successor John Major called the euro, and I quote again, ‘a currency as strange as a rain dance, with the same impotence’. Well, I have to tell you that the pound slipping against the euro, as we see today was not exactly what Major expected at that moment.

But all the rest, let us be honest with each other, is history.

Perhaps let us recognise that it was maybe impossible to unite Great Britain with the Continent, and naive maybe to reconcile the legal system of Napoleon with the common law of the British Empire, and perhaps it was never meant to be.

(Applause)

But, and this is important – and I hope you are applauding this also – our predecessors should never be blamed for having tried, because it is important in politics, as it is in life, to try new partnerships, new horizons, to reach out to the other, to the other side of the channel. I am also convinced and 100% sure about one thing: that one day or another, dear colleagues, there will be a young man or a young woman who will try again, who will lead Britain into the European family once again.

(Applause)

And a young generation that will see Brexit for what it really is: a catfight in the Conservative party that got out of hand. A loss of time, a waste of energy, and I think, a stupidity. Although I continue to think that Brexit is a sad and regrettable event, I also believe it is important to remember something. Remember what Britain and Europe in these more than 40 years have achieved together. It is true, we may not have had the most passionate relationship, but it was not a failure either, not for Europe, and certainly not for Britain and the British.

Let us not forget, Britain entered the Union as the sick man of Europe, and thanks to the single market, came out the other side. Europe also made Britain punch above its weight in terms of geopolitics, as in the heyday of the British Empire. And we, from all sides, must pay tribute to Britain, to Britain’s immense contributions as a staunch and unmatched defender of free markets and civil liberties. And thank you for that because as a Liberal, I will miss that in the future.

Colleagues, within a few weeks we will start the process of separation. And I think, Mr Juncker and Mr Barnier, the goal must be to have a new and stable relationship and a deep and comprehensive partnership and association between the UK and the EU that certainly will be very different, as we all know, from membership. In this new venture let us always remember one thing. Our common bonds, our common culture, our common and shared values, our joint heritage, our history. And let us never forget that together we in fact belong to the same great European civilisation, from the Atlantic port of Bristol, I go as far as to the banks of the mighty river Volga; but maybe that is a little too far for the moment.

But let us be honest, and this will be my final point. Brexit is not only about Brexit. Brexit has to be also about our capacity for a rebirth of our European project, because let us recognise that Brexit did not happen by accident. Even though since Brexit I see what I call a change for the good in the mood of the public, let us not fool ourselves: Europe is not yet rescued and Europe has not yet recovered from the crisis.

Europe is still in need of change, I think in need of radical change: change towards a real Union, an effective Union based on values and based on the real interests of our citizens. And a Union also – and I want to conclude with this – that stands up against autocrats. Autocrats will close down their universities, to give one example.

(Applause)

Autocrats will throw journalists into jail, as is happening today. Autocrats will make corruption their trademark. And yesterday, as we all have seen, beyond any humanity, autocrats again bombed innocent women and children with chemical weapons in Syria, to give the nastiest example.

So in these negotiations which will have to start in the coming weeks, let us never forget why our founding fathers – British and other Europeans alike – launched this European project. There are three words: freedom, justice and peace – these are three great things that are worth fighting for.

Other Links

Red lines on Brexit negotiations

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/20170329IPR69054/red-lines-on-brexit-negotiations

EU Draft Guidelines for Brexit Talks

Donald Tusk has released draft guidlines on the approach to be taken by the EU during the Brexit negotiations.

The proposals are due to be discussed and agreed during a special European Council meeting of the EU27 leaders (27 members of the EU not including the UK) scheduled for 29 Aril 2017.

Donald Tusk indicated, during a speech outlining the proposals on 31 March 2017, that talks on a future relationship will not start until sufficient progress on the withdrawal process has been achieved and that negotiations will not be conducted on all issues at the same time.

The initial phase will concentrate on the following items

  • determining the status of EU citizens who live, work and study in the UK
  • preventing a legal vacuum for EU companies after Brexit as a result of EU laws no longer applying in the UK
  • the UK must honour all financial commitments and liabilities incurred as a member state. The EU guarantees to honour all their commitments
  • avoiding the creation of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland

The full speech is available at

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2017/03/31-tusk-remarks-meeting-muscat-malta/

Draft Guidelines

The 9 page Draft Guidelines document outlines a number of principles to be followed by the EU during negotiations these include the following

Core Principles

There will be no separate negotiations between individual Member States and the United Kingdom on matters pertaining to the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the Union.

Phased approach to negotiations

The first phase is to

  • settle the disentanglement of the United Kingdom from the Union and from all the rights and obligations the United Kingdom derives from commitments undertaken as Member State
  • provide as much clarity and legal certainty as possible to citizens, businesses, stakeholders and international partners on the immediate effects of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the Union.

Article 50 requires negotiations to consider the future relationship of the UK with the EU. The Union and its Member States stand ready to engage in preliminary and preparatory discussions to this end in the context of negotiations under Article 50 TEU, as soon as sufficient progress has been made in the first phase towards reaching a satisfactory agreement on the arrangements for an orderly withdrawal.

The European Council will monitor progress closely and determine when sufficient progress has been achieved to allow negotiations to proceed to the next phase.

The two year timeframe set out in Article 50 TEU ends on 29 March 2019.

Agreement on arrangements for an orderly withdrawal

Looking after the interests of EU citizens and UK citizens is a priority item.

The impact of the UK leaving on EU businesses trading with and operating in the UK and vice versa.

A single financial settlement to cover all legal and budgetary commitments as well as liabilities including contingent liabilities.

The EU should recognise existing bilateral agreements and arrangements between the UK and the Republic of Ireland which are compatible with EU law and to support the goal of peace and reconciliation enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement.

The Union should agree with the United Kingdom on arrangements as regards the Sovereign Base Areas of the United Kingdom in Cyprus and recognise in that respect bilateral agreements and arrangements between the Republic of Cyprus and the United Kingdom.

The UK will no longer be covered by agreements concluded by the EU or by Member States acting on its behalf or by both acting jointly. The European Council expects the UK to honour its share of international commitments contracted in the context of its EU membership.

The future location of the seats of EU agencies and facilities located in the UK is a matter for the 27 Member States, arrangements should be found to facilitate their transfer.

The withdrawal agreement should include appropriate dispute settlement mechanisms.

Consideration of the (on-going) role of the Court of Justice of the EU.

Preliminary and preparatory discussions on a framework for the EU – UK future relationship

The European Council welcomes and shares the UK’s desire to establish a close partnership between the EU and the UK after its departure and this should encompass more than just trade.

The British government has indicated that it will not seek to remain in the single market and seeks a free trade agreement. The European Council stands ready to initiate work towards such an agreement, to be finalised and concluded once the UK is no longer a Member State.

Beyond trade, the EU stands ready to consider establishing a partnership in other areas, in particular the fight against terrorism and international crime as well as security and defence

After the UK leaves the EU, no agreement between the EU and the UK may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without the agreement between the Kingdom of Spain and the UK.

Principle of sincere co-operation

Until it leaves the EU, the UK remains a full member of the EU.

A copy of the document can be found at

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/31_03_17_eu_draft_guidelines.pdf

The Great Repeal Bill

The European Communities Act 1972 (ECA) accepted the supremacy of EU law in the UK. The principle of supremacy says that EU law prevails if it conflicts with national law.

The Great Repeal Bill is legislation which will be introduced in the UK to end the supremacy of EU law in the UK.

On the day that the UK officially leaves the EU the European Communities Act 1972 will be repealed and all EU laws currently in force will be converted into UK law.

A White Paper: Legislating for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union was presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis, on 30 March 2017.

The paper outlines the approach the UK Government will take in order to replace EU laws by equivalent UK laws.

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/604514/Great_repeal_bill_white_paper_print.pdf

In his statement to Parliament David Davis said

We have been clear that we want a smooth and orderly exit – and the Great Repeal Bill is integral to that approach. It will provide clarity and certainty for businesses, workers and consumers across the United Kingdom on the day we leave the EU.

The complete statement is available at

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/david-davis-commons-statement-on-the-great-repeal-bill-white-paper

Other References

European Communities Act 1972

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1972/68/contents

European Union Act 2011

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2011/12/contents

How the EU works: EU law and the UK

https://fullfact.org/europe/eu-law-and-uk/

EU Law Terminology:

Direct Effect

https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/observatories/eurwork/industrial-relations-dictionary/direct-effect

Regulations
https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/observatories/eurwork/industrial-relations-dictionary/regulations

Directives
https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/observatories/eurwork/industrial-relations-dictionary/directives

Treaty Provisions
https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/observatories/eurwork/industrial-relations-dictionary/treaty-provisions

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