EU ministers on the General Affairs Council formally adopted draft directives for negotiations on a Brexit transition period Monday following a discussion lasting less than two minutes.
The directives are EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier’s instructions for the next part of the Brexit talks. In a tweet, his deputy Sabine Weyand summed up the guidelines as: “status quo transition without institutional representation, lasting from Brexit date to 31 December 2020.”
Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva said: “EU ministers have given a clear mandate to the Commission on what is the type of transition period that we envisage: full EU acquis to be applied in the U.K. and no participation in the EU institutions and decision-making. The 27 adopted the text speedily today and we hope an agreement on this with the U.K. can also be closed swiftly.”
The EU position laid out in the directives calls for:
— A time-limited transition of 21 months ending on December 31, 2020.
— The U.K. to accept the whole of the EU acquis — the body of EU law — including any changes made during the transition period.
— The U.K. to remain within the customs union and single market — including the four freedoms.
— The U.K. to remain bound by obligations stemming from EU free-trade deals and other international agreements.
— The U.K. to lose its participation in the institutions and decision-making of the EU. It may be invited to attend some meetings as an observer in exceptional cases, but without voting rights.
The general form of a status quo transition is accepted by the U.K., but there is still scope for a disagreement — payments to extend beyond December 2020 (if the U.K. wants or needs this), trade deals with third countries and citizens rights are all issues that could cause problems. Most contentious is U.K. Brexit Secretary David Davis’ demand that the U.K. be able to influence new EU rules coming Britain’s way during the transition period.
In a speech Friday he said: “We will have to agree a way of resolving concerns if laws are deemed to run contrary to our interests and we have not had our say and we will agree an appropriate process for this temporary period … It’s very, very important. If there are new laws that affect us, we have the means to resolve any issues during that period.” That is likely to prove highly contentious in Brussels.
He told MPs last week that he expects the transition period to last between 21 and 27 months. Both sides hope to come to an agreement on a transition period by the European Council summit in late March.