Brexit Negotiations Future Relationship Negotiations Withdrawal Agreement

Salzburg Summit – No Deal ?

An informal meeting of EU leaders was held in Salzburg on 19-20 September 2018 to discuss internal security, migration and Brexit.

It was hosted by Sebastian Kurz, Chancellor of Austria, which currently holds the Presidency of the European Council. Donald Tusk, President of the European council chaired the meeting and together with Jean-Claude Juncker President of the European Commission represented the EU.

Prior to the meeting, Donald Tusk made the following statement on Brexit negotiations:

The Brexit negotiations are entering their decisive phase. Various scenarios are still possible today, but I would like to stress that some of Prime Minister May’s proposals from Chequers indicate a positive evolution in the UK’s approach as well as a will to minimise the negative effects of Brexit. By this I mean, among other things, the readiness to cooperate closely in the area of security and foreign policy. On other issues, such as the Irish question, or the framework for economic cooperation, the UK’s proposals will need to be reworked and further negotiated. Today there is perhaps more hope, but there is surely less and less time. Therefore, every day that is left, we must use for talks. I would like to finalise them still this autumn. This is why, at tomorrow’s meeting of the twenty-seven, I will propose calling an additional summit around mid-November.

During dinner on the 19 September, the Prime Minister was graciously allowed 10 minutes to present her plan, agreed by the cabinet and known as the Chequers Deal, to the other 27 EU Leaders. They will not engage directly in negotiations with the PM in order to preserve the role of Michel Barnier as their chief negotiator.

The meeting ended with a working lunch on the 20 September, in an EU27 format to discuss Brexit. This was an opportunity to review progress in the talks with the UK and to discuss the way forward.

Donald Tusk made a statement, at the end of the meeting, during which he included the following comment on Brexit negotiations:

At our EU27 working lunch today we had a good discussion on Brexit, which once again reconfirmed our full unity. Let me highlight three points.

First, we reconfirmed that there will be no Withdrawal Agreement without a solid, operational and legally binding Irish backstop. And we continue to fully support Michel Barnier in his efforts to find such a model.

Second, we agreed to have a joint political declaration that provides as much clarity as possible on the future relations. Everybody shared the view that while there are positive elements in the Chequers proposal, the suggested framework for economic cooperation will not work. Not least because it risks undermining the Single Market.

Third, we also discussed the timetable for further negotiations. The moment of truth for Brexit negotiations will be the October European Council. In October we expect maximum progress and results in the Brexit talks. Then we will decide whether conditions are there to call an extraordinary summit in November to finalise and formalise the deal.

Theresa May appealed directly to her European counterparts to drop unacceptable Brexit demands that she warned could rip Britain apart, urging the bloc to respond in kind to her serious and workable plan.

We both agree that there can be no withdrawal agreement with no legally operative backstop. But that backstop cannot divide the UK into two customs territories, and we will be bringing forward our own proposals shortly

So with the rejection by the EU of Theresa May’s Chequers Plan it is now looking more likely for the UK to leave the EU without any agreed plan for the future relationship between the UK and the EU. It would also mean any formal Withdrawal Agreement between the 2 sides which would also be abandoned.

The hardline approach being taken by the EU indicates the desire to punish the UK for leaving in an attempt to dissuade other members from following the same path.

Leader after leader lined up to reject the key elements of the Chequers plan and there appears to have been a coordinated “ambush” on Theresa May by fellow leaders to brief against her at the end of the conference. Donald Tusk even mocking Theresa May with a quip concerning “cherries and cake” on his instagram account.

Brexit Negotiations

Press Statement 18 September 2018 – Michel Barnier

Michel Barnier issued a Press Statement following a meeting of the General Affairs Council (Article 50) on 18 September 2018 regarding the current state of the Brexit negotiations.

The statement was part in French and part in English. The original version is at

In the version supplied here, the parts in French have been translated using Google Translate.

The first part was given in French and Google Translated as:

Thank you to Gernot and the Austrian Presidency for your confidence and for having thus expressed the confidence of the 27 governments represented today around the table.

The Ministers confirmed the unity we work with on a daily basis, through transparency, availability and attention to the concerns that are not always the same in each of the Member States. Together with my team, we take all these sensitivities together, as we do with the European Parliament.

We are in the final stretch of this negotiation.

Since the last meeting of the General Affairs Council on 20 July, we have made progress on some issues of separation, orderly withdrawal, such as Euratom, ongoing judicial cooperation procedures and the protection of personal data exchanged before the end of the transition.

But we still have to agree on two important chapters:

The governance of the withdrawal agreement, which must be credible for the agreement itself to be solid.
The 3000 geographical indications currently protected in the 28 countries of the Union, from Scotch whiskey to Polish vodka or Greek feta cheese. Brexit can not and should not lead to a loss of the intellectual property rights attached to these geographical indications.
We must also move decisively forward now on the Irish question.

The next part was in English

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our proposal for the backstop on Ireland and Northern Ireland has been on the table since February.

It is an insurance policy to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, whatever the future relationship will bring.

It reflects our agreement with the UK in December 2017, confirmed by Prime Minister Theresa May in her letter to President Tusk in March.

We are ready to improve this proposal.

Work on the EU side is ongoing:

We are clarifying which goods arriving into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK would need to be checked and where, when and by whom these checks could be performed.
We can also clarify that most checks can take place away from the border, at the company premises or in the market.
We need to de-dramatise the checks that are needed and that are caused by the UK’s decision to leave the EU, its Single Market and customs union.
What we need in the Withdrawal Agreement is a legally operational backstop, which fully respects the territorial integrity of the UK.

This backstop will only apply unless and until a better solution is found, in the context of our future relationship.

The final part was given in French and Google Translated as:

Ladies and gentlemen,

As Gernot has said, the European Council will meet in Salzburg tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and I will, at the invitation of President Tusk and President Juncker, give the state of play of the negotiations to the Heads of State and government of the 27.

In this perspective, I would like to thank the ministers who spoke today, once again expressing their unwavering solidarity with Ireland, in particular. This solidarity is also shared by all the European institutions, and in particular the European Parliament.

As I have always said, the October European Council will be the moment of truth. This is the moment when we will see if an agreement is within our reach, as I hope and as we are working on it.

Thank you for your attention.