Thursday, February 6, 2020
The European Commission has taken the first step toward negotiating a new relationship with the UK by issuing a recommendation to the European Council that the talks should commence.
On January 31, 2020, the UK withdrew from the EU. Under the agreed transition period, EU law will continue to apply to the UK until at least December 31, 2020. The transition period can be extended if a decision is made on this issue by July 1, 2020.
The Commission's recommendation to the Council is based on the existing Council guidelines and conclusions, and on the Political Declaration agreed between the EU and the UK in October 2019. It includes a proposal for negotiating directives, defining the scope and terms of the future partnership the EU envisages with the UK.
These directives cover all areas of interest for the negotiations, including trade and economic cooperation, law enforcement and judicial cooperation, foreign policy, security and defence, participation and Union programs, and other thematic areas of cooperation.
According to the Commission communication, "the envisaged partnership should include an ambitious, wide-ranging, and balanced economic partnership," which "should be comprehensive, encompassing a free trade agreement as well as wider sectoral cooperation where it is in the Union interest."
The document added that the partnership "should aim at establishing a free trade area ensuring no tariffs, fees [or] charges… provided that a level playing field is ensured through robust commitments."
The Council now needs to adopt the draft negotiating directives, which will formally authorize the Commission to open the negotiations.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said: "It's now time to get down to work. Time is short. We will negotiate in a fair and transparent manner, but we will defend EU interests, and the interests of our citizens, right until the end."
Michel Barnier, the European Commission's Chief Negotiator, said: "The Commission will continue working very closely with the European Parliament and the Council. Our task will be to defend and advance the interests of our citizens and of our Union, while trying to find solutions that respect the UK's choices."