European Council (Art.50), Brussels, 15 December 2017

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Series Details 15.12.17
Publication Date 15/12/2017
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At a press conference held early on the 8 December 2017 European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and United Kingdom Prime Theresa May announced that they had reached agreement in principle across the three areas under consideration in the first phase of negotiations for the UK to leave the EU:

+ protecting the rights of Union citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the Union
+ the framework for addressing the unique circumstances in Northern Ireland with its border with Ireland
+ the financial settlement

As a result the European Commission stated that it would recommend to the European Council (Article 50) to conclude that sufficient progress had been made in the first phase of the Article 50 negotiations with the United Kingdom.

It was now for the European Council (Article 50) on 15 December 2017 to decide if sufficient progress had been made, allowing the negotiations to proceed to their second phase.

European Council President Donald Tusk said as a result of this announcement that he would immediately present the draft guidelines to the European Council, Brussels, 14-15 December 2017. The key negotiations of Phase 2 would cover:

+ Negotiating the transition phase
+ Clarifying what the UK meant by its vision of its future relationship with the EU. The EU wanted a close EU-UK partnership in trade, and also in the fight against terrorism and international crime as well as security, defence and foreign policy.

President Tusk highlighted that the most difficult challenges of the negotiations were still ahead.

For further information on the developments of the 8 December 2017 in respect specifically to the issue of Citizens rights click here. The Guidelines were adopted by the EU27 at the European Council (Art. 50) meeting held on the 15 December 2017

Further background information

Brexit Negotiations

+ 29 March 2017: The UK triggered Article 50, the process for the start of the negotiations for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.
+ 19 June 2017: 1st Round
+ 17-20 July 2017: 2nd Round
+ 28-31 August 2017: 3rd Round
+ 25-28 September 2017: 4th Round
+ 9-12 October 2017: 5th Round
+ 19-20 October 2017: European Council
+ 9-10 November 2017: 6th Round

As a follow on to the European Council held in Brussels on the 19 October 2017, the heads of state and government of the Member States of the European Union met in EU27 formation (EU Member States minus the United Kingdom) on the 20 October 2017. They adopted conclusions on the state of the Brexit negotiations.

To the disappointment of the United Kingdom government, the EU27 deemed that insufficient progress had been made on the EU's three priority aims (citizens’ rights, financial settlement and Northern Ireland) to allow for the second sequence of negotiations, including trade issues, to begin .

The issue would be examined again in December 2017 at the next European Council summit. However, internal preparatory discussions as to second sequence issues would begin between the EU27 and the EU Institutions.

It was announced on the 31 October 2017 in a jointly agreed statement by Michel Barnier, the European Commission's Chief Negotiator and David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union that a further shortened sequence of Article 50 negotiations would be held on the 9 and 10 November 2017.

The short sixth round of negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Commission took place between the 9 and 10 November 2017. They were led by David Davis, head of the Department for Exiting the European Union, and Michel Barnier, Chief Negotiator for the European Commission's Taskforce on Article 50 negotiations with the United Kingdom.

Little clear progress was reported by either side at the end of the negotiations. David Davis said 'this week has enabled us to consolidate the progress of earlier negotiating rounds and to draw out those areas where further political and technical discussion is required ... This is now about moving into the political discussions that will enable both of us to move forward together'.

Michel Barnier said 'Do not expect from us today, at this stage, announcements or decisions. ... The discussions over the past days – in between the two European Councils – are a moment of deepening, clarification and technical work.

He also indicated that the UK had two weeks left to make concessions if the Brexit negotiations were to advance to the next stage at the December 2017 European Council meeting. The concessions were seen to concern, in particular, the issues of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and the financial settlement.

Detailed negotiations took place behind the scenes and it was anticipated that a breakthrough would be announced at a meeting between European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May on the 4 December 2017. However, a last minute refusal by the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland to accept proposed concessions on the Irish border prevented an announcement to be made.

Arlene Foster, Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party and First Minister of Northern Ireland said on the 4 December 2017 that 'We have been very clear. Northern Ireland must leave the EU on the same terms as the rest of the United Kingdom. We will not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the United Kingdom. The economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom will not be compromised in any way'.

This led to further negotiations between all parties which led to a form of wording agreeable to all sides and the announcement made on the 8 December 2017.

Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar said on the 4 December 2017 that he was 'surprised and disappointed' with the lack of a deal on Brexit divorce issues.

Following the European Council held in Brussels on the 14-15 December 2017 the EU27 grouping (the EU Member States minus the United Kingdom) held a separate European Council (Art.50) on the 15 December 2017.

The EU27 reviewed the latest developments in the Brexit negotiations.

EU27 leaders agreed that sufficient progress has been achieved in the first phase of the Brexit negotiations.

On this basis, they adopted the draft guidelines to move to the second phase of negotiations where they would also start discussions on:

+ a transition period
+ the framework for the future relationship

The European Commission sent on the 20 December 2017 a Recommendation to the Council (Art 50) to begin discussions on the next phase of the orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

The Council of the European Union (EU27) adopted on the 29 January 2018 its negotiating directives relating to the second phase of Brexit talks.

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Related Links
EU Law Analysis [Blog], 25.01.18: Phase 2 of the Brexit talks: annotation of the EU27 negotiation position
Chatham House: Video, 18.12.17: Inside the Brexit Negotiations
BBC News, 15.12.17: Brexit: EU leaders agree to move talks to next stage
The Guardian, 15.10.18: (sequence started in July 2017 and peridocially updated): Brexit talks: where are the negotiations up to?
EurActiv, 15.12.17: EU to move Brexit talks forward after praise for May
EUObserver, 15.12.17: EU stresses unity as it launches next phase of Brexit talks
Politico, 13-15.12.17: FAQ: What happens in Brexit Phase 2?
Politico, 15.12.17: Brexit Phase 2 can begin after EU declares ‘sufficient progress’
Blog: UK in a Changing Europe, 15.12.17: The wide open plains of Phase 2
CBI (with the BCC, IoD, FSB and EEF): Press Release, 15.12.17: UK business organisations welcome move to phase two of talks
Deutsche Welle, 15.12.17: EU leaders formally approve second Brexit phase
The Conversation, 15.12.17: EU agrees to start phase two of Brexit talks: experts react
Ireland: Government: News, 08.12.17: Statement on Brexit negotiations by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
BBC News 15.12.17: Brexit: Guidelines for the next stage of talks
United Kingdom: House of Commons: Library: Briefing Paper No.8183 (19.12.17): Brexit: 'Sufficient progress' to move to Phase 2, December 2017 (et al)
ESO: In Focus: Brexit - The United Kingdom and the European Union
UK: GOV.UK: Prime Minister's Office: Speeches, 18.12.17: PM Commons statement on European Council: 18 December 2017
Blog: UK in a Changing Europe, 20.12.17: Into Phase II: how the EU27 see the outcome of the December European Council

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