The Council, in EU27 format, was briefed by the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier on the state of play in the Brexit negotiations. The chief negotiator informed the ministers about where the negotiations stand regarding:
- the work to finalise the withdrawal agreement, including the backstop solution for the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland
- the discussions on future EU-UK relations.
We will only have a withdrawal agreement if the legal text is agreed on all issues. This includes the backstop for Northern Ireland. In this context we need to recall that all commitments undertaken so far must be respected in full. The withdrawal agreement needs to be concluded as soon as possible. Work must also be accelerated with a view to preparing a political declaration on the framework for the future relationship. Furthermore we have to step up our work on preparedness in case we don’t find a deal. The unity of the EU 27 remains crucial.
Gernot Blümel, Austrian minister and chair of the meeting
On the future relations, the Council discussed how the policy paper published by the UK government on 12 July 2018 can feed into the discussions. In the light of the principles set by the European Council, the negotiator will explore common ground between the EU and the UK positions regarding the framework for future relations. The aim is to agree on a joint political declaration that will accompany the withdrawal agreement and be referred to in it. The EU negotiator will report back on this issue at the next meeting of the General Affairs Council (Article 50) in September 2018.
The chief negotiator also presented to the ministers the recent Commission communication on preparedness. Ministers reiterated that the work on preparedness must be stepped up at all levels for the EU27 to be ready for any possible outcome.
Compliments of the European Commission