On 29 April, the European Council announced that EU27 (all EU members except the UK) leaders met at the first summit after the UK officially triggered Article 50. They unanimously adopted guidelines for the Brexit talks ahead. This will define the framework for negotiations and set out the overall EU positions and principles. The Council said;

On 29 March 2017, the European Council received the notification by the United Kingdom of its intention to withdraw from the European Union and Euratom. This allows for the opening of negotiations as foreseen by the Treaty.

European integration has brought peace and prosperity to Europe and allowed for an unprecedented level and scope of cooperation on matters of common interest in a rapidly changing world. Therefore, the Union’s overall objective in these negotiations will be to preserve its interests, those of its citizens, its businesses and its Member States.

The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the Union creates significant uncertainties that have the potential to cause disruption, in particular in the United Kingdom but also, to a lesser extent, in other Member States. Citizens who have built their lives on the basis of rights flowing from the British membership of the EU face the prospect of losing those rights. Businesses and other stakeholders will lose the predictability and certainty that come with EU law. It will also have an impact on public authorities. With this in mind, we must proceed according to a phased approach giving priority to an orderly withdrawal. National authorities, businesses and other stakeholders should take all necessary steps to prepare for the consequences of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal.

Throughout these negotiations the Union will maintain its unity and act as one with the aim of reaching a result that is fair and equitable for all Member States and in the interest of its citizens. It will be constructive and strive to find an agreement. This is in the best interest of both sides. The Union will work hard to achieve that outcome, but it will prepare itself to be able to handle the situation also if the negotiations were to fail.

These guidelines define the framework for negotiations under Article 50 TEU and set out the overall positions and principles that the Union will pursue throughout the negotiation. In this context, the European Council welcomes the resolution of the European Parliament of 5 April 2017. The European Council will remain permanently seized of the matter, and will update these guidelines in the course of the negotiations as necessary. Negotiating directives will be adjusted accordingly.

After the Special Council meeting, President Tusk held a news conference at which he stated:

We are united not only on the substance, but also on the method of conducting the Brexit talks. I am referring here to the so-called phased approach, accepted by the leaders today. This means that before negotiating our future relations with the UK, we must first achieve sufficient progress on citizens’ rights, finances and the border issue in Ireland. It is too early to speculate on when this might happen. However, it is important to highlight that it will be for the EU leaders to assess, and decide, if sufficient progress has been made. And this will be a unanimous decision of all the 27 heads.

Let me now focus on our priority number one, namely citizens, whose rights we want to respect and secure in the first place. Today’s discussion made clear that when it comes to reaching a decision on citizens’ rights, not only speed is of the essence – but above all, quality, as so many people’s lives depend on it. We are talking about four and a half million people: Europeans residing in the UK, and Britons living on the continent. Over the past weeks, we have repeatedly heard from our British friends – also during my visit in London – that they are ready to agree on this issue quickly. But I would like to state very clearly that we need real guarantees for our people to live, work and study in the UK, and the same goes for the British. The Commission has prepared a full list of rights and benefits that we want to guarantee for those affected by Brexit. In order to achieve sufficient progress, we need a serious British response. I want to assure you that as soon as the UK offers real guarantees for our citizens, we will find a solution rapidly.