This briefing paper provides an update on what has been said by the UK and the EU about the state of the Article 50 TEU negotiations since March 2018, and what this appears to leave to be ‘agreed’ before the forthcoming June 2018 European Council meeting.

The last publicly released joint output from the UK-EU negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU was the March 2018 draft Withdrawal Agreement. This document made clear that while there was agreement on significant areas of the Withdrawal Agreement, there were also still key areas – institutional and relating to Ireland and Northern Ireland, most obviously – where agreement had not yet been found. Separately, the European Council and the European Parliament released negotiating guidelines and a resolution on the ‘future relationship’ they envisage with the UK in March 2018. The Council’s document will form the basis of the EU’s side of the negotiations on the ‘political declaration’ that forms the other part of the Article 50 TEU package to be agreed between the UK and the EU on withdrawal.

In the negotiations, there are thus currently two issues at play simultaneously:

    • Negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement – these will produce a legally binding text that will need to be ratified by both the UK and by the EU Council of Ministers, and will then become binding upon both parties under international law.
    • Negotiations on the ‘future relationship’ – these will produce a non-binding ‘political declaration’ that will outline, in broad terms, the shape of the ‘future partnership’ negotiations that the UK and the EU hope to conclude once the UK is no longer a Member State.

Both are required to be completed under the terms of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), though in practical terms the Withdrawal Agreement itself is of significantly greater importance and must be in a detailed, finished state by the end of 2018 so it can enter into force within the two-year Article 50 TEU window. The political declaration can be as detailed or as general as the negotiating parties determine in 2018, and could thus be a significant or limited factor in the shape of the next negotiations between the UK and the EU.  However, if the Withdrawal Agreement (with some form of ‘political declaration’ attached) is not fully agreed and ratified by both parties by March 2019, the UK will not enter into a ‘transition/implementation’ period but simply ‘leave’ without a deal.

The next European Council meeting is on 28-29 June 2018, and the EU made clear in early 2018 that it wanted substantial progress on the areas of ‘disagreement’ in the draft Withdrawal Agreement by this date.  In the absence of an agreed text by then, the Withdrawal Agreement and the political declaration will both continue to be subject to negotiations until the next European Council meeting (to be held in October 2018).

Download the full report: Brexit: Negotiations Update (March-June 2018)


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