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UK flag with an EU-themed eraser symbolizing Brexit
Image: Picture-alliance/Bildagentur-online/Ohde

Brexit: EU ministers agree on transition period demands

January 29, 2018

EU ministers have approved a new set of guidelines for a transition period following Great Britain's exit from the bloc. The EU is offering the UK a "status quo" transition, but no decision-making power after it leaves.


Government ministers from the European Union on Monday agreed to a transition period lasting from March 2019 to December 31, 2020 that will phase out Great Britain from the bloc once it officially leaves next year.

Although the ministers agreed to allow Britain access to the EU's single market during that time, the UK will have no decision-making power.

Read moreAngela Merkel has 'absolutely no doubts' about securing Brexit deal

EU citizens in the UK

What is the EU's Brexit transition stance

The negotiating directives, set out the bloc's requirements for the transition period, including: 

  • Free immigration from the EU must continue during the transition. 
  • All EU laws — including those passed after the UK's exit in 2019 — should continue to apply to Britain during the transition. Certain exceptions can be made in the areas of security and justice laws.
  • Britain will not have a role in the EU decision-making process once it leaves.
  • Any disputes over laws would continue to be handled by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
  • The transition will be used to strike a deal on the UK's future trade relationships — but the UK cannot formally sign-off on any new trade deals before the transition period expires.

Read moreUK Brexit negotiator wants trade deals during transition period

UK to get a 'status quo transition' but without voting power

"When you have left the European Union you have left, and this is just a transition to a new arrangement," Swedish EU Affairs and Trade Minister Ann Linde told reporters in Brussels following the vote.

The EU's deputy chief negotiator Sabine Weyand said the European affairs ministers adopted guidelines for Brexit negotiations "within two minutes." She added that the guidelines ensure a "status quo transition without institutional representation." 

A Downing Street spokesman said that the UK welcomed the EU's transition terms, saying that Brussels and London's positions were well aligned. However, there is still "some distance" between the two sides concerning several transition details.

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said Britain "must accept" all EU laws during the transition, adding that there is still work to be done on the divorce agreement.

Read moreEU presents post-Brexit plan for Britain's 73 European Parliament seats

Britain: Out of the EU, out with Europeans?

What London isn't going to like about the EU stance: The plan has sparked deep divisions in British Prime Minister Theresa May's government, which had originally requested a two-year time period in order to negotiate trade deals. The UK's lack of policy-making power during the transition and the continued jurisdiction of the ECJ upsets Brexit supporters who argue the measures infringe on British sovereignty.

Read moreDonald Trump urges Theresa May to get tough in Brexit talks

EU seeks clarification: Ahead of the vote on Monday, the EU ministers in Brussels once again urged for London to clarify its negotiating stance and provide a clearer picture of the type of future relationship it wants to have with the bloc.

The road to Brexit: In a June 2016 referendum on breaking off Britain's EU membership, 52 percent voted to leave the bloc while 48 percent voted to remain. Both Brussels and London have been frustrated by sluggish progress in negotiations since they started last year.

Read moreEmmanuel Macron's EU vision meets Theresa May's search for the exit

What happens next:  Monday's agreement paves the way for the EU and Britain to begin discussing the transition. Talks between Barnier and his British counterpart David Davis could begin as early as this week.

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rs/rt (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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