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European Commission - Speech - [Check Against Delivery]

Speech by Michel Barnier at the Plenary Session of the European Parliament on the state of play of negotiations with the United Kingdom

Strasbourg, 3 October 2017

Thank you, Mr. President.

And thanks to your Parliament for allowing me to express myself, alongside President Juncker.

Members of the European Parliament,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear Matti,

I am happy to be here before you today, alongside President Juncker, whom I thank for his personal trust and support. And to be alongside Matti Maasikas whom I congratulate and thank for the quality of the Estonian presidency throughout the week last week.

We were here in this chamber for the first time on 5 April 2017, when you adopted your first resolution.

You are setting the political direction in this negotiation, just as the European Council has done under President Tusk, by adopting very precise negotiating directives.

Six months later, as the clock is still ticking and we are a few days away from the European Council on 19 and 20 October, let us take stock today of the negotiations.

Your draft resolution today shows – beyond its concrete subject matter – the full and complete involvement of the European Parliament in this negotiation. I frequently remind people that your Parliament will have the final word.

Since day one, we knew that this negotiation would be unique, complex, and would have serious human, social, financial, legal and economic consequences. And these consequences are often underestimated.

As the Union's negotiator, it is for the Commission to negotiate on behalf of the 27 Member States and all the institutions of the Union.

Our biggest asset is our unity.

This unity does not happen by itself. It does not fall from the sky. It is built, day after day, through the transparency that we have decided to practise with President Juncker, through public debate and through trust.

I would like to thank particularly President Tajani, your Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt and the Presidents of the Groups, as well as the members of the Brexit Steering Group, for the quality of our regular exchanges.

With your support, we have been working since the beginning of this negotiation to implement the mandate entrusted in us by the Council, and to be fully in line with your resolution and the guidelines adopted by the European Council.

This mandate is simple: it consists of us agreeing with the United Kingdom on the principles of its orderly withdrawal as soon as possible, so that we can quickly discuss together the framework of our future relationship.

As you know, the three main topics of the orderly withdrawal are citizens' rights, the financial settlement and Ireland – there are a lot of other topics which cannot be forgotten either, such as Euratom, judicial and administrative procedures, goods placed on the market, and governance.

These three topics go together. They are inseparable.

You say it yourself in your draft resolution: Prime Minister Theresa May made some openings in her Florence speech ten days ago.

The UK negotiation team began last week translating these openings into concrete proposals and clarified a number of issues.

In that way, we could advance, particularly on one of our priorities, which is the protection of the rights of citizens.

We are also converging on the common principles which will guide our response to the questions on the unique situation of Ireland.

Alongside these positive points, there are still serious divergences, in particular on the financial settlement.

On this point: we simply expect commitments taken at 28 to be honoured at 28. It is as simple as that: that taxpayers and the 27 Member States do not have to pay for the consequences of a decision they did not make.  No more, no less.

There are also points of divergence on how to guarantee citizens' rights.

We understand and share the worry of the 4.5 million British and European citizens who want to continue living and working like they did before Brexit.

This worry, which you refer to in your resolution, has been worsened by certain discriminatory measures taken by the British authorities. We are worried about this.

To effectively guarantee these rights, we need:

  1. The withdrawal agreement to have direct effect to allow British authorities and judges to rely directly on the withdrawal agreement. Without direct effect, these rights could be changed over time.
  1. A coherent interpretation of the agreement on both sides of the Chanel, which only the European Court of Justice can assure.

Beyond these questions on governance, we are also waiting for guarantees from the United Kingdom on family reunification and the exportation of social benefits acquired in the United Kingdom.

On Ireland, both the European Union and the United Kingdom recognise that Ireland is in a unique situation and that any solution must be fully informed by the particular circumstances on the island.

As I have said a few times before, these solutions must respect the integrity of the Union's legal order, as well as the Good Friday Agreement in all its dimensions.

At this stage, it is particularly important to ensure the concrete modalities of continuing the numerous North-South cooperation schemes provided for in this agreement and the continuation of the Common Travel Area, which requires precise and detailed work, and which we are engaging in constructively with the British side.

As you rightly pointed out in your draft resolution, we have not yet made the "sufficient progress" today to start the second phase of the negotiations with confidence. Firstly, on a possible transitional period, under conditions clearly defined by the European Council. Then on the framework of our future relationship.

A fifth round of negotiations will be held next week in Brussels.

Our attitude will remain resolutely constructive because we want to succeed.

We want to build an ambitious and lasting partnership with the United Kingdom – which will become a third country on 30 March 2019, as was its choice – in trade, but also in security and defence or research and innovation.

The sooner we agree on the principles of an orderly withdrawal, the sooner we can concentrate on this objective, which is in our common interest.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our approach is based on the fundamental principles of our Union.

o   The unity and interest of the Member States and institutions.

o   Our  autonomy of decision.

o   The integrity of the Single Market and the four freedoms, which are our foundation.

These principles have been at the heart of our political project since the beginning.

The United Kingdom knows them well, having shared these principles with us for 44 years.

They are not negotiable.

Once again, as the Chancellor of Germany and President Juncker have said, we know that the future of the Union is more important than Brexit.

It is the responsibility of the 27 Member States and the European Parliament to build this future together. To overcome the challenges.

A page is turning. This is the United Kingdom's sovereign choice. We respect it.

Now it is up to us for the European Union to write new pages.

 

SPEECH/17/3665


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