Minister sets out Brexit timetable following EU Council

Brexit – Reply by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to a question in the Senate

Paris, 11 April 2019

I obviously share your concerns. Earlier on, in answer to another question, I said that Brexit can’t be a permanent approach and that we can’t live either in a permanent state of Brexit or an eternal state of Brexit.

The decision taken last night upheld four basic principles for all of us.

Firstly, the interests of the European Union; secondly, the British democratic vote; thirdly, the need for an unambiguous process, particularly on the renegotiation – as I explained earlier; and, finally, the unity of the 27. These four principles were met with general agreement. That’s a good thing.

The main concern is to ensure that the European Union continues to function smoothly, and in this respect Britain gave guarantees, which we’ll have to make sure are properly applied.

Firstly, [the guarantee] that during this period Britain will commit to doing its duty of cooperating in good faith. It’s the least it can do.

Secondly, the 27 may meet as 27 over the period in order to prepare for matters arising after Britain has left the European Union.

Thirdly, the deadline of this new extension has been set before the new Commission takes office. (…)

And finally, fourthly, Britain has committed to holding European elections if it is still a member and hasn’t ratified the withdrawal agreement before the election deadline, otherwise the withdrawal will take place on 1 June, the date on which there will be another European Council to check the commitments made by Britain in last night’s agreement.

I think there’s now finally a way forward, and we hope that Britain is on as clear a path as the 27 were last night./.

Brexit – Reply by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to a question in the Senate

Paris, 11 April 2019

First of all, the 27 were united last night. It’s important to note and reiterate this.

Secondly, the purpose of the extension, which was granted, was also established very clearly: this is in no way about re-opening the negotiations on the withdrawal agreement, but about allowing the British authorities the time to ratify it to enable an orderly withdrawal. In the same way, last night’s European Council conclusions specify that this extra period of time may not be used to re-open the negotiations on the future relationship. As we’ve already said, we’re prepared to amend the political declaration on our future relationship, if the British position were to evolve, but negotiations on the arrangements for it will be opened only after the United Kingdom’s withdrawal.

As you can see, the timetable has been set and extra time granted. But it’s now up to the British to determine whether they wish to leave the European Union under the terms agreed in the agreement, if they wish to leave with no deal, or if they wish to go back on their decision vis-à-vis Article 50. But it’s their responsibility.

And I must say that neither the British nor the [other] citizens of the European Union can live in a permanent state of Brexit or an eternal state of Brexit; this, I hope, is the message the British are going to hear./.

European Union – Extraordinary meeting of the European Council (Article 50)/conclusions – Press release issued by the Council of the European Union¹

Brussels, 10 April 2019

1. The European Council takes note of the letter of Prime Minister Theresa May of 5 April 2019 asking for a further extension of the period referred to in Article 50(3) TEU.

2. In response, the European Council agrees to an extension to allow for the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement. Such an extension should last only as long as necessary and, in any event, no longer than 31 October 2019. If the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified by both parties before this date, the withdrawal will take place on the first day of the following month.

3. The European Council underlines that the extension cannot be allowed to undermine the regular functioning of the Union and its institutions. If the UK is still a Member of the EU on 23-26 May 2019 and if it has not ratified the Withdrawal Agreement by 22 May 2019, it must hold the elections to the European Parliament in accordance with Union law. If the United Kingdom fails to live up to this obligation, the withdrawal will take place on 1 June 2019.

4. The European Council reiterates that there can be no opening of the Withdrawal Agreement, and that any unilateral commitment, statement or other act should be compatible with the letter and the spirit of the Withdrawal Agreement and must not hamper its implementation.

5. The European Council stresses that such an extension cannot be used to start negotiations on the future relationship. However, if the position of the United Kingdom were to evolve, the European Council is prepared to reconsider the Political Declaration on the future relationship in accordance with the positions and principles stated in its guidelines and statements, including as regards the territorial scope of the future relationship.

6. The European Council notes that, during the extension, the United Kingdom will remain a Member State with full rights and obligations in accordance with Article 50 TEU, and that the United Kingdom has a right to revoke its notification at any time.

7. The European Council takes note of the commitment by the United Kingdom to act in a constructive and responsible manner throughout the extension in accordance with the duty of sincere cooperation and expects the United Kingdom to fulfill this commitment and Treaty obligation in a manner that reflects its situation as a withdrawing Member State. To this effect, the United Kingdom shall facilitate the achievement of the Union’s tasks and refrain from any measure which could jeopardize the attainment of the Union’s objectives, in particular when participating in the decision-making processes of the Union.

8. In addition to meetings under Article 50 TEU, the 27 Member States and the Commission, where appropriate together with other institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the Union, will continue to meet separately at all levels to discuss matters related to the situation after the withdrawal of the United Kingdom.

9. The European Council will remain seized of the matter and will review progress at its meeting in June 2019./.

¹Source of English text: European Council website.

Published on 12/04/2019

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