On December 15, 2016, the European Council (Council) published a statement (Statement) following an informal meeting of the heads of state and government of the 27 EU member states excluding the United Kingdom (EU 27), as well as the presidents of the Council and the European Commission (Commission).
In the Statement, the EU 27 and the presidents of the Council and the Commission expressed their readiness to start negotiations with the United Kingdom as soon as it has submitted its intention to withdraw under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. They reiterated that any agreement with the United Kingdom would have to be based on a balance of rights and obligations, and that access to the EU Single Market (which UK Prime Minister Theresa May has stated to be her objective) would require “acceptance of all four freedoms”—meaning that EU workers should continue to have unfettered access to and the right to live and work in the United Kingdom.
In an annex to the Statement, the Council set forth endorsed procedural arrangements for the negotiations with the United Kingdom, including:
- The Council will adopt guidelines that will define the framework for negotiations.
- The General Affairs Council will authorize the negotiations, and to deal with the subsequent steps in the process. The Council will also then adopt negotiating directives on substance.
- The Council will be invited to nominate the Commission as the EU negotiator—for which the Commission’s nomination of Michel Barnier as chief negotiator is noted as being “welcome.”
- A dedicated working party with a permanent chair will be established and will follow the established guidelines and negotiating directives, with such working party providing guidance to the EU negotiator.
- UK representatives on the Council will not be permitted to participate in any discussions or in the decisions concerning the UK departure from the European Union.
- Representatives of the EU 27 shall be invited to such meetings.
- The EU negotiator will be invited to keep the European Parliament closely and regularly informed throughout the negotiation. The Council president will be prepared to inform and exchange views with the European Parliament before and after each meeting.
The Statement is available here.