European Council President Donald Tusk is a man of his word. He promised he would have a first draft of the Brexit negotiating guidelines for the 27 remaining EU member states ready within 48 hours from the moment the UK triggered the Article 50 exit mechanism – and he delivered. Overall, the document reads as anything but punitive. Below are my initial thoughts.
The door is wide open for parallel negotiations, albeit not from the very beginning
Over the past couple of days, the media have been (arguably too) quick to jump on carefully worded statements by a number of EU leaders – notably including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on whose remarks my colleague Henry Newman blogged here – and conclude that the 27 were going to flat out reject Theresa May’s request to run ‘parallel negotiations’ on the terms of the divorce and the future UK-EU relationship.
However, the draft guidelines make it clear that parallel negotiations will be fully possible during the two-year timeframe stipulated by Article 50 – provided that “sufficient progress” on the terms of the withdrawal is achieved. In other words, the door is wide open for parallel negotiations – albeit not from the very beginning. This is the exact wording,
An overall understanding on the framework for the future [UK-EU] relationship could be identified during a second phase of the negotiations under Article 50. The [European] Union and its member states stand ready to engage in preliminary and preparatory discussions […] as soon as sufficient progress has been made in the first phase towards reaching a satisfactory agreement on the arrangements for an orderly withdrawal.