Brexit: EU's 27 countries agree terms to offer UK for transition period after two minute discussion

EU in show of unity as UK government faces internal dissent

Jon Stone
Monday 29 January 2018 15:00 GMT
Barnier: 'the single market cannot be a la carte'

The European Union’s 27 remaining countries have formally agreed on the terms they will offer Britain for its Brexit transition period.

The negotiating guidelines were agreed by the member states after only a two minute discussion, the European Commission’s deputy chief negotiator Sabine Weyand said on Monday afternoon.

The decision was made at a meeting of the EU’s general affairs council in Brussels, which the UK did not attend – as is convention for decisions regarding Brexit. The council is a gathering of all the relevant government ministers from the EU’s countries.

The announcement by the negotiator that the discussion only took two minutes appears designed to show the EU’s unity – compared to that of the British government, which has faced criticism from its own backbenchers over plans for the transition period and which has yet to agree what sort of trade deal it wants.

The EU instructions to its negotiators, leaked draft copied of which have been obtained by The Independent, confirms that Britain would have to implement new EU laws created during the nearly two-year transition period without any say on their content.

Brussels is also demanding a veto over any trade deals the UK wishes to sign with other countries during the period, and will strip the UK of its representation in the European Council, European Parliament, and European Commission – which are being lost as a result of deciding to leave the bloc.

What is Article 50?

If agreed, the period would begin on 29 March 2019, two years after Theresa May triggered Article 50 – and end on 31 December 2020.

Leading Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has said he believes the transition period amounts to the UK becoming a “vassal state” of the EU, though Brexit Secretary David Davis has said it is a “bridge to the future” and only amounts to a “short period” in the EU’s orbit.

British officials are also understood to be complementing asking Brussels for a longer transition period than the one proposed because they are concerned the UK will not have enough time to prepare itself for new customs arrangements under the end date proposed by Brussels.

The guidelines states that during the transition period EU “acquis (law) should apply to and in the United Kingdom as if it were a Member State. Any changes to the Union acquis should automatically apply to and in the United Kingdom during the transition period”.

It adds that “the direct effect and primacy of Union law should be preserved” during the period, but that “as a general rule, the UK will not attend meetings of committees” shaping EU law.

Following the meeting, Ms Weyand posted on Twitter: “EU general affairs council adopts guidelines for Brexit negotiations within two minutes: status quo transition without institutional representation, lasting from Brexit date to 31 December 2020.”

Ekaterina Zeharieva, the deputy prime minister of Bulgaria, which is currently chairing the European Council, 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 UK 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 UK can also be closed swiftly.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in