On 29 March 2017, the UK officially triggered its withdrawal from the EU. In line with the Treaty on European Union, this means that the UK’s EU membership will automatically end after two years at the latest, on 29 March 2019. The negotiations on defining future EU UK relations are being conducted by the European Commission under the political control of the Member States.
The talks passed a milestone last week when the European Council adopted guidelines for a Withdrawal Agreement with the UK on 23 March 2018. These guidelines spell out that the EU wants to continue having a close political and economic partnership with the UK. However, it is an unavoidable fact that relations will be less comprehensive and deep than those among EU Member States. That will also affect areas such as trade, foreign policy and defence policy.
Which objectives is the Federal Government pursuing?
The Federal Government and the EU as a whole are seeking a fair withdrawal agreement with the UK that regulates the disentanglement in as smooth a way as possible and limits the damage that will inevitably be caused by Brexit. One of the Federal Government’s priorities for the negotiations is to safeguard the interests of German citizens. Another focus is on averting any damage that Brexit could cause to the European Union at large. This aspect is important particularly for businesses, as well as for transnational science and research.
The German Government has an interest in maintaining a close partnership between the EU and the UK in the future. However, it is important to emphasise that the advantages of EU membership cannot be enjoyed without the obligations it entails. It was with this in mind that the Heads of State and Government of the EU27 made it clear in their statement of 29 June 2016, shortly after the UK referendum, that future relations must be characterised by a balance between rights and obligations. The UK’s closeness to the internal market will depend on the extent to which the UK continues to abide by the European Union’s rules.
What role is the Federal Foreign Office playing?
As the lead ministry, the Federal Foreign Office is tasked with ensuring that German interests and objectives are taken into consideration by the EU in the Brexit negotiations. A common German position is coordinated within the Federal Government to this end and advocated in Brussels.
Moreover, the Federal Government established a Cabinet Committee on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on 22 November 2016 and is engaged in a close and regular dialogue with the German Bundestag, Bundesrat, cities and municipalities. Many discussions are being held with representatives of affected Germans in the UK, as well as with business representatives and representatives from science organisations. This ensures that all German and European concerns are taken into account during the negotiations.