Special European Council (Art. 50), 29/04/2017

European Council

Main results

The Special European Council (Article 50), in an EU 27 format, adopted the guidelines for the Brexit negotiations. 

"I want to underline the outstanding unity of all the 27 leaders on the guidelines for our negotiations with the UK. (…) We now have unanimous support from all the 27 member states and the EU institutions, giving us a strong political mandate for these negotiations."

President Donald Tusk at the press conference after the summit

The guidelines will define the framework for negotiations and set out the overall EU positions and principles during the talks. The European Council will update the guidelines in the course of the negotiations as necessary.

Core principles

In the guidelines, the European Council states that the EU27 will keep its unity and act as one during the negotiations. Leaders: 

  • reiterate their wish to have the UK as a close partner
  • reiterate that any future deal will need to be based on a balance of rights and obligations and ensure a level playing field
  • stress that the integrity of the single market must be preserved, which means the four freedoms are indivisible and excludes any cherry-picking
  • state that a non-member cannot enjoy the same rights and benefits as a member

"Negotiations under Article 50 TEU will be conducted in transparency and as a single package. In accordance with the principle that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, individual items cannot be settled separately."

European Council (Art. 50) guidelines for Brexit negotiations

A phased approach 

Heads of state and government agreed that the first phase of negotiations should aim to: 

  • provide as much clarity and legal certainty as possible
  • settle the disentanglement of the UK from the EU

The European Council will monitor progress closely and determine when sufficient progress has been achieved to allow negotiations to proceed to the next phase.

An agreement on a future relationship between the EU and the UK can only be concluded once the UK has become a third country. However, leaders declare readiness, during a second phase of negotiations, to start preliminary and preparatory discussions on the framework for that future relationship.

The two year timeframe set out in Article 50 ends on 29 March 2019.

An orderly withdrawal 

"Citizens who have built their lives on the basis of rights flowing from the British membership of the EU face the prospect of losing those rights. (…) With this in mind, we must proceed according to a phased approach giving priority to an orderly withdrawal."

European Council (Art. 50) guidelines for Brexit negotiations

The European Council stressed the importance of safeguarding the rights of citizens affected by Brexit. They highlighted the need to avoid a legal vacuum for business, and referred to a single financial settlement that should ensure the EU and the UK respect their obligations.

In view of the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland, the European Council stressed the need to support the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process in Northern Ireland.

"Flexible and imaginative solutions will be required, including with the aim of avoiding a hard border, while respecting the integrity of the Union legal order."

European Council (Art. 50) guidelines for Brexit negotiations

Principle of sincere cooperation

Until it leaves the Union, the United Kingdom remains a full member of the EU, subject to all rights and obligations set out in the Treaties and under EU law. All ongoing EU business must continue to proceed as smoothly as possible at 28, and the negotiations with the United Kingdom will be kept separate from ongoing Union business, and shall not interfere with its progress.

Next steps

After the adoption of the guidelines by the European Council and based on a recommendation from the Commission, the General Affairs Council on 22 May 2017 is expected to: 

  • authorise the opening of negotiations
  • nominate the Commission as the EU negotiator
  • adopt negotiation directives (detailed mandate for the Commission)

Background

On 29 March 2017 the UK formally notified to the European Council its intention to leave the EU. 

"We regret that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, but we are ready for the process that we now will have to follow. (...) In these negotiations the Union will act as one and preserve its interests. Our first priority will be to minimise the uncertainty caused by the decision of the United Kingdom for our citizens, businesses and member states."

Statement of the European Council, 29 March 2017
Last reviewed on 30/08/2017