EU and the UK after the referendum on 23 June 2016

Following the results of the UK referendum on 23 June 2016, the EU will deal with the political and practical implications of 'Brexit'.


21 March

President Tusk calls a European Council on Brexit for 29 April 2017

The special European Council, in an EU27 format, will adopt the guidelines for the Brexit talks. "We must do everything we can to make the process of divorce the least painful for the EU," said President Tusk.

President Tusk's call was made in response to the announcement by London of its intention to trigger Article 50 on 29 March 2017. 


15 December

Negotiation procedure

At their informal meeting in December 2016, the 27 leaders agreed on the following procedure for upcoming Brexit talks

  1. UK triggers Article 50 by notifying the European Council of its intention to leave.
  2. The EU 27 leaders adopt 'guidelines', including principles and general positions, for negotiations. They will update these guidelines in the course of the negotiations, as necessary.
  3. Following a recommendation by the Commission, the General Affairs Council authorises the opening of negotiations.
  4. The Council adopts negotiating directives on substance and on the detailed institutional arrangements. These may be amended and supplemented throughout the negotiations.
  5. The Council will appoint the Commission 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".
  6. The Council and its preparatory bodies will ensure that negotiations are conducted in line with guidelines provided by the EU 27. It will provide guidance to the Commission.

"We adopted the organisational structure with the European Council maintaining political control over the process, and the Commission as the Union's negotiator", said President Tusk after the meeting.   

15 December

Informal meeting of the 27 EU heads of state or government

The 27 leaders and Presidents of the European Council and Commission issued the statement, in which they declared they stand ready to start negotiations with the UK as soon as the UK has notified under Article 50

"We welcome the intention of the UK to do so before the end of March 2017, so that we can begin to tackle the uncertainties arising from the prospect of the UK's withdrawal," they said in the statement.

They also reiterated their commitment to principles agreed in June 2016, including:

  • no negotiations without notification   
  • balance of rights and obligations
  • no access to Europe's single market without acceptance of EU's four freedoms

29 November

Tusk responds to UK MP's concerns about status of EU and UK citizens

President Donald Tusk replied to UK MPs on their concerns regarding the status of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens living and working in Europe. 

"In your letter you called on me 'to resolve this matter once and for all' at the European Council in December. This would in effect mean the start of the negotiations already in December. The EU stands ready to do so, but that can only happen on the condition that Art. 50 has been triggered. (...) the decision about triggering Art. 50 belongs only to the UK, which we fully respect."

"Just like you, I would like to avoid a situation where citizens become 'bargaining chips' in the negotiation process. In order for this not to happen, we will need precise and comprehensive solutions, which, other than nice-sounding expressions, will provide citizens with genuine guarantees of security."

13 October

'Hard Brexit' or 'no Brexit', says Tusk

"The only real alternative to a 'hard Brexit'  is 'no Brexit'. Even if today hardly anyone believes in such a possibility", said Donald Tusk, President of the European Council in his speech at the European Policy Centre in Brussels.

He said that the key task during the withdrawal negotiations will be to protect the interests of the EU and the interests of each of the 27 countries. He also stressed that access to Europe's single market requires acceptance of EU's four freedoms: people, goods, capital, and services.

2 October

UK to trigger Article 50 by end of March 2017

The UK will begin the formal withdrawal negotiation process by the end of March 2017, British Prime Minister Theresa May said on 2 October at the conference in Birmingham.

President Donald Tusk immediately welcomed the declaration. "It brings welcome clarity on start of Brexit talks. Once Art. 50's triggered, EU27 will engage to safeguard its interests," he tweeted.

8 September

Meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, travelled to London to exchange views with British Prime Minister Theresa May. 

"I told Prime Minister May that I am convinced that it is in everyone's best interest that we start negotiations soon, to reduce and eventually end the uncertainty," he said after the meeting.

29 June

Informal meeting of the 27 EU heads of state or government 

"We are determined to remain united and work in the framework of the EU to deal with the challenges of the 21st century and find solutions in the interest of our nations and peoples," said the 27 leaders in their joint statement after the informal meeting on 29 June. They also called on the UK government to notify the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the EU as quickly as possible.

The 27 leaders will meet again in September 2016 to continue talks on the future of the EU. 

28 June

European Council, 28 June 2016

The European Council focused on the outcome of the UK referendum. Prime Minister David Cameron explained the situation in the UK after the referendum. It was followed by a first exchange of views. 

"Leaders understand that some time is now needed to allow the dust to settle in the UK. But they also expect the intentions of the UK government to be specified as soon as possible," said President Tusk at the press conference after the meeting. 

24 June

Joint statement by the EU leaders and the Netherlands Presidency on the outcome of the UK referendum

"In a free and democratic process, the British people have expressed their wish to leave the European Union. We regret this decision but respect it," said President Tusk, President Juncker, President Schulz and Netherlands Prime Minister Rutte in their joint statement.

"As agreed, the 'New Settlement for the United Kingdom within the European Union', reached at the European Council on 18-19 February 2016, will now not take effect and ceases to exist. There will be no renegotiation," they added. 

24 June

Press statement by President Donald Tusk on the outcome of the referendum in the UK

"We are prepared for this negative scenario. There will be no legal vacuum," said President Donald Tusk following the official results of the UK referendum.

23 June

UK referendum

On 23 June 2016 the UK citizens voted to leave the European Union. The vote followed intense negotiations of a deal which would strengthen Britain's special status in the EU.