The First british minister Theresa May at the european summit on December 14, 2017 in Brussels (Photo EMMANUEL DUNAND. AFP)
The EU-27 was officially approved on Friday the opening of a new phase of negotiations with the United Kingdom on their future relationship, but warned that it would be “extremely difficult” to obtain agreement to the scheduled date of the Brexit, the 29 march 2019.
From London, the First british minister, Theresa May, has immediately welcomed the news, praising an “important step on the road to Brexit smoothly and orderly, and the development of a future close partnership and special”.
The president of the european Council, Donald Tusk, has nevertheless accompanied the endorsement of 27 of a clear message: it will be “extremely difficult” to finalise an agreement on a withdrawal by march 29, 2019, he warned, even if the target remains “realistic”.
“It is obvious that the second phase will be more demanding, more complex” than the first one, he imparted during a press conference at the closing session of a two-day european summit in Brussels.
Mrs May had called on Thursday evening the 27th, to begin “as soon as possible” discussions on their relations post-Brexit, is crucial for the future of the United Kingdom, once it has left the european Union, in a speech applauded by his peers.
Incentives intended to recognise the “significant efforts” made by the British to conclude the first chapter, according to the president of the european Commission Jean-Claude Juncker. But he, too, expects a second phase “much more difficult than the first”.
The head of the eu executive said that its “confidence” Theresa May was “intact”, even though it has suffered a setback policy in his country – a vote of Parliament imposing a right of scrutiny final of deputies of british on the withdrawal agreement from the EU.
– Date of Brexit-editable –
Conservative mps, however, anticipate to present on Wednesday, an amendment authorizing the government to change the date and time of Brexit, set to 29 march 2019 23: 00. The amendment should have the support of deputies “rebels” to Ms. May, who feared that the deadline to be included in the act to a vote on Wednesday.
The “guidelines” of the Council adopted on Friday endorsed the progress on the files that are strictly related to the separation, that the EU had built in conditions to complete the first phase of the negotiations opened in June.
The EU asked for advance commitments on three fronts: the fate of the expatriates after the divorce, the future of the border between Ireland and the province of Northern Ireland and the financial regulations of the Brexit.
It is estimated to have received with the preliminary agreement finalised between the european Commission and the british government a week ago in Brussels, which will be the basis for the final agreement of withdrawal.
The leaders are ready to open as early as January 2018 the negotiations on a transition period of approximately two years requested by London. But during this brief interlude, the Uk will need to continue to apply the european rules, without participating in “decision-making” within the EU, says the text agreed Friday.
And 27 does not plan to adopt until march 2018 of the negotiating directives more specific on future trade relations with London at the end of this period of transition, according to this same document.
They want to see it more clearly in the british intentions before taking their position here in the spring.
For Donald Tusk, the contacts will be first “exploratory”, in the United Kingdom to “provide more clarity” on the future.
The 27 have also wanted to show their firmness after statements little appreciated in Brussels of the british minister of Brexit, David Davis, on the “non-binding” of the preliminary agreement on the terms of the divorce.
The negotiations of the second phase “will not move forward if all of the commitments made during the first step are fully respected and faithfully translated into legal terms in the best possible time,” it was specified in the “guidelines” of the Council.
– ‘Very clever’ –
The 27 are also preparing to be confronted with divisions between them, during the new phase of the negotiations.
“The good news is that, at present, the 27 member States have worked well together and were supportive. I hope that we will succeed also in the procedure to come,” commented the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.
The chief negotiator of the EU, Michel Barnier, has attended the meeting between the leaders on Friday morning. “It is to listen to the sensitivities of different member States”, explained a source european.
The Dutch Prime minister Mark Rutte has said that the 27 had agreed Friday not to discuss in public how they envision the future.
“The British are good negotiators and they are very clever because they are called directly by the capitals. We have managed to keep our unit up to now and it is our ambition to continue to do so,” he noted.