Drapeaux européen et britannique
29 March 2017

Brexit: the United Kingdom triggers Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union

As promised, on 29 March the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom gave formal notification of Britain’s intention to leave the European Union, in accordance with Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. The Government regrets but respects this decision.
Content published under the Government Cazeneuve from 2016 06th December to 2017 14th May
This decision will allow negotiations to begin. In the first instance it will be for the European Council of 27 Member States to adopt guidelines setting out the overall positions and principles for negotiations between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom. This will be the subject of a meeting that Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, is calling on 29 April. On the basis of these guidelines, the Council will give the European Commission specific negotiating directives to negotiate on behalf of the EU, which will be the responsibility of Michel Barnier. Negotiations can then be initiated, most likely in June. These will be closely monitored by the European Council and the Council.
Negotiations conducted under Article 50 concern the conditions for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU. With a timeframe of two years, the negotiations must be concluded by the Council with the qualified majority of the 27 Member States following approval by the European Parliament. The negotiations will focus in particular on:
  • The rights of European citizens in the United Kingdom and of British citizens in the EU,
  • The fulfilment by the United Kingdom of all its obligations resulting from its decision to leave the EU and the acceptance of commitments, payments and guarantees arising from it,
  • The management of external borders, in particular with respect to the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which will require special attention in order to preserve the achievements of the peace process while ensuring that European rules are respected. 
The 27 Member States must at the same time decide on the relocation of agencies currently located in the United Kingdom: the European Banking Authority and the European Medicines Agency. French applications exist in both cases. A second set of negotiations will aim to prepare the framework for future relations between the EU27 and the United Kingdom as a third country. These discussions can only commence once the conditions for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU have been clarified precisely.
Ordering the two sets of negotiations in this way is essential to ensure the United Kingdom’s orderly exit from the EU and minimise uncertainties as much as possible. In her notification letter, the British Prime Minister states her wish for a deep and special partnership with the EU, in particular including an ambitious free trade agreement. Negotiations on the framework for future relations with the United Kingdom will potentially involve numerous sectors, both those linked to internal market (goods, services, capital, people) and those which fall within the scope of common policies. France will be vigilant in maintaining and strengthening the cohesion of the EU and the protection of its interests in all areas concerned. This will require that the 27 Member States clearly define the principles for governing these future relations. No State outside the EU must be able to benefit from the advantages reserved for Member States.
These future relations must fully respect Community law, based in particular on the EU’s decision-making autonomy, the case law of the European Court of Justice, the integrity of the internal market and the indivisibility of the four freedoms, starting with the free movement of people. This will also require guaranteeing fair competition between the United Kingdom and the EU, by ensuring equitable and verifiable conditions over time for the exchange of goods, services and capital. Where necessary, this will include adapting the European instruments required for achieving this.
France is prepared for these negotiations. The day after the referendum of 23 June 2016, France organised itself by establishing a working group under the aegis of the General Secretariat for European Affairs, bringing together all Directors General and Directors of the government departments concerned.
This interministerial work will continue in order to guarantee that French interests are best defended during the negotiations and to prepare France as much as possible for the UK’s exit. In this context, members of the Government are fully mobilised, including by holding talks with the stakeholders concerned as well as professional federations. This work will also continue. These unprecedented negotiations will be complex. With its deep and historic ties with the United Kingdom, France will approach the negotiations constructively while exercising necessary vigilance and remaining fully resolved to help strengthen the EU.