Background Briefing: EU Council Draft Negotiating Guidelines


Today, Donald Tusk, the European Council President circulated draft EU guidelines on the future UK-EU relationship, which will be discussed by the EU27 with a view to agreement being reached at the 22/23 March European Council. The draft text can be found here and when agreed to, it will serve as a basis for the European Commission’s negotiating mandate on the future UK-EU relationship.

The draft guidelines underline the Council’s view that:

  1. The UK Government’s Brexit approach limits the depth of the future relationship
  2. Being outside the Single Market and Customs Union will lead to friction
  3. A divergence in external tariffs and internal rules will lead to border/customs checks
  4. A non-EU member cannot have the same rights as an EU Member State
  5. A Free Trade Agreement is a possibility but would exclude Single Market participation
  6. If the UK were to change course, then the EU27 would be prepared to reconsider


Open Britain’s assessment:

  • These guidelines serve to underline that the Government is pursuing a policy that it knows will damage the economy and jobs and result in less money for the NHS and public services.
  • The guidelines are the direct consequence of the Government’s unnecessary and reckless decision to take membership of the Single Market and the Customs Union off the table. The ‘cherry-picking’ approach being pursued by the Government is, and always was, a fantasy.
  • Today’s draft documents by both the Council and the European Parliament imply that a Canada-style free trade agreement is the only option left thanks to the Government’s red lines. Yet the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have said that a free trade deal like the one the EU has with Canada will damage our economy.
  • As Theresa May finally acknowledged last Friday at Her Mansion House, and as the Government’s own analysis shows, UK-EU trade will suffer as a result of the hard Brexit that her Government is pursuing.
  • On the Irish border, it is clear that 21 months after the referendum the Government still has no credible solution – leaving the Single Market and Customs Union means there will be a hard border.
  • Participation in EU agencies will require an adherence to EU rules, seeing the UK move from being a rule-maker to a rule-taker.
  • It is clear that the Brexit that was promised is not the one that is being delivered. Everyone is entitled to keep an open mind about whether Brexit is the right path for the country.