European Commission mandate to negotiate transitional arrangements with the UK


In a press release yesterday, the European Commission welcomed the decision by the General Affairs Council to allow negotiations to begin on possible transitional arrangements following the United Kingdom's orderly withdrawal from the European Union.

Directives to the EU negotiation team

The ‘negotiating directives’ are based on the Commission's recommendations and set out details on possible transitional arrangements.  These include:

There will be no ‘cherry picking’:  The UK will continue to participate in the Customs Union and the Single Market (with all four freedoms).  EU law and regulations will continue to apply in full to UK “as if it were a Member State”.  UK remains bound by the obligations stemming from agreements with third countries.  Any changes made to the law and regulations during this time should automatically apply to the United Kingdom.

All existing Union regulatory, budgetary, supervisory, judiciary and enforcement instruments and structures will apply, including the competence of the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The UK will be a third country as of 30 March 2019.  It will, therefore, no longer be represented in Union institutions, agencies, bodies and offices.

The transition period needs to be clearly defined and precisely limited in time.  It should not last beyond 31 December 2020.  Consequently, the provisions on citizens' rights in the Withdrawal Agreement should apply as of the end of the transition period.

The directive notes the need to translate into legal terms the results of the first phase of the negotiations.  It stresses that much work is needed for the UK's orderly withdrawal from the EU, including those not yet addressed in the first phase.

The directives drew a swift response from the EU’s chief negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier

“The EU position is very clear”:

The transition will last for 21 months, until 31 December 2020.

During this limited period, the whole EU ‘acquis’ [laws and regulations] will continue to apply to the UK including full EU supervision and enforcement framework under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.  Any new EU rules entering into force during this period apply to the UK.

During transition, the UK will be part of the Single Market, the Customs Union and all Union policies.  It will continue to have all the economic benefits – thus, it must also apply all the EU rules. The Single Market cannot be "à la carte".  This means:

Rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU will remain unchanged until 31 December 2020.

A ‘level playing field’ and stability for businesses – and so that they will not have to adapt twice.

Barnier:  “That said, it is high time to start preparing for those who have not done so yet.”

He emphasised that : “UK will no longer be an EU member on 29 March 2019.” This will have consequences in terms of institutions and governance.  “After this date, the UK will no longer participate in the EU decision-making process.”

On existing agreements with third countries during the transition:  "As part of the transition, the UK will remain bound by the obligations stemming from all existing EU international agreements, for instance on trade and aviation.  This is crucial for the good functioning of the Single Market and the Customs Union.”


8 December 2017, the European Commission recommended that the European Council accept that sufficient progress has been made in the first phase of the Article 50 negotiations with the UK.

13 December 2017, a resolution by the European Parliament confirmed that sufficient progress has been made.

15 December 2017, the leaders of the EU27 confirmed that sufficient progress had been achieved on citizen's rights, Ireland and the financial settlement, and adopted guidelines to move to the second phase of the negotiations.

20 December 2017, the European Commission sent a Recommendation to the European Council to begin discussions on the next phase of the orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

The European Council (Article 50 Guidelines) of 29 April 2017, together with the general principles and the procedural arrangements for the conduct of the negotiations established in the Council negotiating directives of 22 May 2017, continue to apply in their entirety to this phase of the negotiations.



John ShuttleworthComment