The EU confirms its Brexit priorities
Following earlier publication of draft guidelines, the EU has now published its official guidelines for negotiating the terms of Brexit with the UK.
The EU emphasised its “core principles”: (1) negotiation only through the EU with no separate deals with individual member states; (2) no “cherry picking” between the four fundamental freedoms – ruling out full access to the single market without free movement of people; (3) that non-EU countries will not benefit from the same deals as EU members.
The EU wants to see negotiations split into two phases. The first will be concentrating on getting legal certainty over the disentanglement of the UK, the second will be establishing a future framework for UK-EU relations. Critically however, the second phase won’t begin until the EU Commission is happy that they have the certainty they are looking for in phase 1, and the second phase will only produce a framework. The EU’s position is still that the actual agreement won’t be finalised until after the UK has actually left the EU in April 2019.
Crucially for business, in terms of trade post Brexit, the EU has recognised the need to prevent a vacuum post Brexit, and would look to negotiate a free-trade deal, but this would not amount to membership of the single market. The top priority for the EU however is settling the position as regards EU citizens living and working in the UK and vice versa and securing a set of reciprocal rights and guarantees.
It is worth reiterating that these are currently draft guidelines only and may change over time and the issue of the financial settlement that the EU is requesting from the UK remains particularly thorny. Negotiations are due to start on 22 May 2017 (although according to the EU commencement may be delayed slightly until after the general election on 8 June 2017) so we will begin to see how things develop after that.