EU Warns Britain It Can Have No Say During Brexit Transition

By LORNE COOK

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union government ministers on Monday warned Britain that it cannot expect to have a say in EU decision-making once it leaves, including during a transition period from next year meant to help smooth the departure.

The warning came as European affairs ministers adopted — in a matter of minutes — new orders for the bloc’s Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, laying out the terms of the transition, which would run from the end of March 2019 until Dec. 31, 2020, when the bloc’s current long-term budget ends.

Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said the ministers gave “a clear mandate” on their requirements for the transition period. She said EU law would apply in Britain during that time and that the country would have “no participation in the EU institutions and decision-making.”

Barnier’s deputy tweeted that the negotiating guidelines were endorsed in Brussels in two minutes, although ambassadors had spent weeks drafting them. Zaharieva said: “We hope an agreement on this with the U.K. can also be closed swiftly.”

In the orders, the EU insists that Britain should also abide by any new rules that are introduced during transition.

This has already raised concern in Britain, with London’s Brexit negotiator, David Davis, demanding last week “a way of resolving concerns if laws are deemed to run contrary to our interests and we have not had our say.”

“It’s very, very important,” he said, that “if there are new laws that affect us, we have the means to resolve any issues during that period.”

But Irish European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee said Monday that “what we cannot have is a position where the integrity of the single market, the customs union, is in any way undermined.”

“When the U.K. leave the European Union they will not be a voice around the table,” she said.

Swedish EU Affairs and Trade Minister Ann Linde agreed.

“When you have left the European Union, you have left, and this is just a transition to a new arrangement,” she said.

The bridging period should allow British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government to prepare its future trade ties with the wider world, but London would not be able to introduce any trade pact before 2021 without permission from its EU partners.

Any disputes, according to the draft, would be handled by the European Court of Justice. This, too, will not sit well with Brexit supporters, who want escape the grip they say Europe’s top court has on British sovereignty.

Britain is impatient to launch talks on future ties with the EU and in particular on trade, but more guidelines will have to be adopted at a summit of European leaders in March for that to happen, based on progress made by then.

Monday’s guidelines include a demand for clarity on what future relations should look like.

“The sooner the Brits are clear about the future, the better for everybody,” said Italy’s EU affairs representative Sandro Gozi. “We have to use our time and energy not in shaping the transition, but in shaping the future relationship.”

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Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this report.

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