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European Council Adopts Guidelines On Future Relationship With UK

On 14 March the European Parliament voted on the proposed framework for the future relationship between the EU and UK post Brexit withdrawal. On 23 March, the European Council followed suit, meeting in an EU27 format to adopt the official guidelines, guidelines that closely reflected the ones adopted a week earlier by Parliament and which serve as the legal basis for the Commission to continue with the negotiations with the UK.

The EU wants to maintain as close a relationship with the UK as possible in areas such as trade, economics, and security and defense - all of which were reiterated in the EU Council’s newly adopted guidelines. Even though a close relationship is the end goal of Brexit negotiations, the leaders of the EU27 recognized that the current positions held by the UK will ‘limit the depth of such a future partnership’.

As the UK wishes to leave the Customs Union and Single Market, there will inevitability be friction in trade when it comes to matters such as external tariffs, internal rules, checks and controls. Any agreement with the UK must be based on a balance of rights and obligations, as the UK will no longer be a member of the EU and thus cannot enjoy the same benefits as a member state. The Council reinforced that above all, the four freedoms are indivisible and so the ‘cherry picking’ of participation that the UK proposed to proceed with will be forbidden as it would undermine the integrity and proper functioning of the Single Market.

In terms of economics, the Council wishes to move forward with a balanced and wide-ranging free trade agreement (FTA) with the UK. The UK will become a third party and therefore will not be able to maintain the same benefits as membership within the Single Market offers. Post withdrawal, the UK will be a third country and thus outside of Schengen. This means that strong safeguards, effective modes of exchange of information, and operational cooperation must be established. This of course will cover matters such as tourism and personal data flow.

What happens next?

These adopted guidelines will now serve as a mandate for the chief EU Commission negotiator, Michel Barnier, in the start of the discussions surrounding the framework of the future relationship with the UK with the hope of obtaining a common overall understanding. The European Council plans to closely follow the negotiations so that they can return to address the issues that may develop during the Council’s June meeting. Nothing can be taken as granted however, before all is voted by both the UK and the EU Parliament later this year.



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