Sunday, 1 July 2018

European Council - June 2018

The European Council met in Brussels on Thursday / Friday 28 and 29 June.  This post looks primarily at the Brexit-related part of the council meeting.

Council Conclusions 28 June:

 The conclusions of 28 June are set out HERE under five principal headings: (I) Migration, (II) Security and Defence; (III) Jobs, growth and competitiveness, (IV) Innovation and Digital and (V) Other issues.  The main results are summarised HERE.  The Press Briefing may be viewed here.

On Monday 2nd July, the Prime Minister made a statement about the Council meeting - House of Commons Hansard 2nd July.

Withdrawal agreement and future relationship:

The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018  is now on the statute book and provides, perhaps with inevitable complexity, for legal continuity within the United Kingdom following  "Exit Day" - now defined as 11 pm on 29 March 2019 - Overview of the Act.

The legislation settled on a process by which Parliament will approve the terms of a withdrawal agreement - see Section 13 where it is provided that the withdrawal agreement may be ratified only if certain conditions are met.  These include a requirement that "the negotiated withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future relationship have been approved by a resolution of the House of Commons on a motion moved by a Minister of the Crown" and "an Act of Parliament has been passed which contains provision for the implementation of the withdrawal agreement."

The UK Government has said that there is to be a Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill.  This Bill would need to be passed in a timely manner before exit day in order to enable transition to take effect at the moment that the UK leaves the EU.   No such Bill has been published at the time of writing.

All of this begs the fundamental question of whether a Withdrawal Agreement will be secured from the on-going negotiations between the UK and the EU.

European Council 29 June:

On Friday 29 June EU leaders addressed Brexit (in an EU 27 format) and eurozone (Euro Summit format).

Council (Art. 50) reviewed the state of play of Brexit negotiations and adopted conclusions on progress made.  It welcomed the further progress made on parts of the legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement but leaders highlighted that important aspects still need to be agreed.   The 27 leaders expressed their concern that no substantial progress had yet been achieved on agreeing a backstop solution for Ireland/Northern Ireland.   They also stressed that work had be accelerated with a view to preparing a political declaration on the framework for the future relationship.
Mr Donald Tusk - the President of the European Council - noted in his remarks at the end of the Council meeting that - "On Brexit. The EU27 has taken note of what has been achieved so far. However, there is a great deal of work ahead, and the most difficult tasks are still unresolved. If we want to reach a deal in October we need quick progress. This is the last call to lay the cards on the table."

The ball is now with the British government but the Cabinet has yet to agree on a blueprint for the future relationship.  Theresa May told the House of Commons that a White Paper would be issued following the June European Council meeting - BBC News 29 June

Whilst European welcomed progress on the legal text of the withdrawal agreement  it was a concern that "important aspects still need to be agreed" including the territorial application of the deal "notably as regards Gibraltar."  Talks between Spain and the UK over Gibraltar, including access to its airport and the exchange of tax information, continue.  [Gibraltar overwhelmingly voted Remain in the 2016 referendum].

They also expressed concern that "no substantial progress has yet been achieved on agreeing a backstop solution for Ireland/Northern Ireland" in the event that a deal on customs arrangements is not agreed by December 2020 when the transition period is due to end.

Further, Council called on member states and EU institutions "to step up their work on preparedness at all levels and for all outcomes" - the European Commission president has said the EU must prepare for the possibility that no Brexit deal will be reached.

Mrs May's own cabinet is divided over what the UK's customs arrangements after December 2020 should look like, when the transition period agreed with the EU is due to end.   There are also disagreements over the future movement of goods and people across the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Brexit will have massive political and economic impact.  The 2016 Referendum produced a divisive result and those divisions continue.  There is even a case to be made that the referendum lacks democratic legitimacy.  I won't take this point further here but see European Law Monitor.

It is impossible to view the present state of affairs with any joy.  The consequences of NO DEAL being achieved must be considered even though one does not like to contemplate such an event. The European Commission has published a number of "Preparedness Notices" which detail the legal and practical effects of no deal on a range of sectors and groups. These are all available via THIS LINK.   Businesses are very strongly advised to read through these notices so they can understand the effects of no deal on their business - see also European Law Monitor 29 June.

Full details of the Council meeting can be seen at -

A Report to the European Parliament on the European Council meetings of 28 and 29 July 2018 will take place on Tuesday 3rd July.  MEPs will assess the outcome of the 28-29 June EU summit on migration, Brexit, common defence and the EU budget with European Council President Donald Tusk and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in a debate on Tuesday afternoon.
The next Council meeting is scheduled for 18 October 2018.  A question hangs over whether a withdrawal agreement can be reached by then - The Independent 1st July - where it is reported that -

"Another source close to the European Commission told The Independent: “Now we are looking at December as a more likely option, but there are questions about how much time that leaves for the deal to be ratified in time before March.”

Other Links:

Since March 2018, a DRAFT Withdrawal Agreement has been in place and it contains provision for a transition / implementation period lasting until 31st December 2020.  On 19th June 2018, the UK Government and EU issued a Joint Statement on Withdrawal Agreement - 19th June 2018

House of Commons Exiting the EU Committee - Progress on negotiations

House of Lords - EU Select Committee

ICLR Weekly Notes 2nd July

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