On 23 June 2016 citizens of the United Kingdom (UK) voted to leave the European Union (EU). On 29 March 2017 the UK formally notified the European Council of its intention to leave the EU by triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
The negotiation process
The Commission was appointed as the Union negotiator who will negotiate on behalf of the 27. The Commission nominated Michel Barnier as chief negotiator. It will report back to leaders and to the Council throughout the negotiation and will also keep the European Parliament “closely and regularly informed”. The Commission’s aim will be to ensure a maximum level of transparency throughout the negotiations.
At a Special European Council on 29 April 2017, the EU27 leaders unanimously adopted guidelines for the Brexit talks ahead. These define the framework for negotiations and set out the overall EU positions and principles.
On 3 May the Commission presented to the Council a recommendation for a Council decision on the Brexit negotiations. It includes draft negotiating directives (detailed mandate for the Commission).
1st phase of negotiations
On 22 May, the EU 27 leaders adopted a decision authorising the opening of Brexit negotiations with the UK and formally nominating the Commission as EU negotiator. The Council also adopted negotiating directives for the talks.
The first phase of negotiations focus on:
- issues related to citizens' rights
- the financial settlement
- the Northern Irish border
- other separation issues
The first phase of the talks aims to provide as much clarity and legal certainty as possible and to settle the disentanglement of the UK from the EU. Once the European Council deems sufficient progress has been achieved, the negotiations will proceed to the next phase.
An agreement on a future relationship between the EU and the UK can only be concluded once the UK effectively leaves the EU and becomes a third country. However, discussions on an overall understanding of that future relationship could start during a second phase of the negotiations.
On 20 October, the European Council (Article 50), in an EU 27 format, agreed to start internal preparations for the 2nd phase of the Brexit talks. The 27 EU leaders called for more progress on citizens’ rights, Ireland and the UK’s financial obligations. They also said that at their summit in December they would reassess the state of progress to determine whether "sufficient progress" has been achieved on each of the three above issues, in order to move to the second phase of negotiations.
On 8 December, the European Commission recommended to the European Council (Article 50) to conclude that sufficient progress has been made in the first phase of the Article 50 negotiations with the United Kingdom. The Commission's assessment is based on a Joint Report agreed by the negotiators of the Commission and the United Kingdom Government, endorsed by Prime Minister Theresa May during a meeting with President Jean-Claude Juncker.