Withdrawal Agreement

Statement by Donald Tusk on Brexit 20 March 2019

Statement by Donald Tusk on Brexit 20 March 2019 after receiving a letter from Theresa May asking for an extension to the Article 50 period which is due to expire on 29 March 2019.

…I believe that a short extension will be possible, but it will be conditional on a positive vote on the Withdrawal Agreement in the House of Commons…

State in full,

Today I received a letter from Prime Minister May, in which she addresses the European Council with two requests: to approve the so-called Strasbourg agreement between the UK and the European Commission, and to extend the Article 50 period until 30 June 2019. Just now I had a phone call with Prime Minister May about these proposals.

In the light of the consultations that I have conducted over the past days, I believe that a short extension will be possible, but it will be conditional on a positive vote on the Withdrawal Agreement in the House of Commons. The question remains open as to the duration of such an extension. Prime Minister May’s proposal, of 30 June, which has its merits, creates a series of questions of a legal and political nature. Leaders will discuss this tomorrow. When it comes to the approval of the Strasbourg agreement, I believe that this is possible, and in my view it does not create risks. Especially if it were to help the ratification process in the United Kingdom.

At this time I do not foresee an extraordinary European Council. If the leaders approve my recommendations, and if there is a positive vote in the House of Commons next week, we can finalise and formalise the decision on the extension in a written procedure. However, if there is such a need, I will not hesitate to invite the members of the European Council for a meeting to Brussels next week.

Even if the hope for a final success may seem frail, even illusory, and although Brexit fatigue is increasingly visible and justified, we cannot give up seeking – until the very last moment – a positive solution, of course without opening up the Withdrawal Agreement. We have reacted with patience and goodwill to numerous turns of events, and I am confident that, also now, we will not lack the same patience and goodwill, at this most critical point in this process. Thank you.


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

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

Brexit EU Negotiations

UK invokes Article 50

The UK

On the 29 March 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May wrote to European Council President Donald Tusk to notify him of the UK’s intention to leave the EU. The letter was delivered by Sir Tim Barrow, the UK’s ambassador to the EU.

Today, therefore, I am writing to give effect to the democratic decision of the people of the United Kingdom. I hereby notify the European Council in accordance with Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the European Union. In addition, in accordance with the same Article 50(2) as applied by Article 106a of the Treaty Establishing the European Atomic Energy Community, I hereby notify the European Council of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the European Atomic Energy Community.

The letter is 6 pages long and outlines the UK’s approach to negotiations suggesting a number of principles that could be adopted in an attempt to ensure that the negotiations proceed as smoothly as possible:

  1. We should engage with one another constructively and respectfully, in a spirit of sincere cooperation
  2. We should always put our citizens first
  3. We should work towards securing a comprehensive agreement
  4. We should work together to minimise disruption and give as much certainty as possible
  5. We must pay attention to the UK’s unique relationship with the Republic of Ireland and the importance of the peace process in Northern Ireland
  6. We should begin technical talks on detailed policy areas as soon as possible, but we should prioritise the biggest challenges
  7. We should continue to work together to advance and protect our shared European values

The letter also mentions a White Paper will be released tomorrow (30 March 2017) which will provide details of legislation to repeal the European Communities Act 1972 which gives effect to EU law in the UK. (This legislation is also known as the Great Repeal Bill.)

Theresa May gave a statement on the letter in Parliament details of which can be found at

The EU

Donald Tusk responded to the notification letter and mentioned

So, here it is, six pages: the notification from Prime Minister Theresa May, triggering Article 50 and formally starting the
negotiations of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union. There is no reason to pretend that this is a happy
day, neither in Brussels, nor in London. After all, most Europeans, including almost half the British voters wish that we would stay together, not drift apart. As for me I will not pretend that I am happy today.


On Friday I will share a proposal of the negotiating guidelines with the Member States, to be adopted by the European Council on 29 April.

Full details are available at

A Statement by the European Council (Art. 50) on the UK notification was also issued.

For the European Union, the first step will now be the adoption of guidelines for the negotiations by the European Council. These
guidelines will set out the overall positions and principles in light of which the Union, represented by the European Commission,
will negotiate with the United Kingdom.

In these negotiations the Union will act as one and preserve its interests. Our first priority will be to minimise the uncertainty
caused by the decision of the United Kingdom for our citizens, businesses and Member States. Therefore, we will start by
focusing on all key arrangements for an orderly withdrawal.

We will approach these talks constructively and strive to find an agreement. In the future, we hope to have the United Kingdom as
a close partner.

President Tusk has convened the European Council on 29 April 2017.

Full details are available at

What happens next ?

The withdrawal agreement must be negotiated in accordance with Article 218 (3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Step 1
An extraordinary European Council will be convened by the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk. (This will happen on 29 April).
The European Council will adopt by consensus a set of guidelines on the orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. These guidelines will define the overall principles that the EU will pursue during the negotiations based on the common interest of the European Union and of its Member States.

Step 2
After the adoption of the guidelines, the Commission will very quickly present to the Council a recommendation to open the negotiations. This will be agreed by the College of Commissioners, 4 days after the meeting of the European Council.

Step 3
The Council will then need to authorise the start of the negotiations by adopting a set of negotiating directives. They must be adopted by strong qualified majority (72% of the 27 Member States, i.e. 20 Member States representing 65% of the population of the EU27).
Once these directives are adopted, the Union negotiator, as designated by the Council, is mandated to begin negotiations with the withdrawing Member State.