Brexit: European Commission receives mandate to begin negotiations with the UK on transitional arrangements

Brussels, 29 January 2018

The European Commission welcomes today’s decision by the General Affairs Council (Article 50) to allow negotiations to begin on possible transitional arrangements following the United Kingdom’s orderly withdrawal from the European Union.

These negotiating directives – which supplement the negotiating directives from May 2017 and were based on the Commission’s Recommendation of 20 December 2017 – set out additional details on possible transitional arrangements. These include, in particular, the following:

  • There will be no “cherry picking”: The United Kingdom will continue to participate in the Customs Union and the Single Market (with all four freedoms). The Union acquis will continue to apply in full to and in the United Kingdom as if it were a Member State. As a result, the United Kingdom should remain bound by the obligations stemming from agreements with third countries. Any changes made to the acquis during this time should automatically apply to the United Kingdom.
  • All existing Union regulatory, budgetary, supervisory, judiciary and enforcement instruments and structures will apply, including the competence of the Court of Justice of the European Union.
  • The United Kingdom will be a third country as of 30 March 2019. It will, therefore, no longer be represented in Union institutions, agencies, bodies and offices.
  • The transition period needs to be clearly defined and precisely limited in time. It should not last beyond 31 December 2020. Consequently, the provisions on citizens’ rights in the Withdrawal Agreement should apply as of the end of the transition period.

Today’s Negotiating Directives also recall the need to translate into legal terms the results of the first phase of the negotiations, as outlined in the Commission’s Communication and Joint Report. It underlines that work needs to be completed on all withdrawal issues, including those not yet addressed in the first phase, such as the overall governance of the Withdrawal Agreement and substantive issues such as intellectual property rights, protection of personal data and customs-related matters needed for the UK’s orderly withdrawal from the EU.

Next steps

The European Commission will publish in due course a draft legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement, of which transitional arrangements form part. The overall Article 50 Agreement will need to be concluded by the Council (Article 50), the European Parliament and the United Kingdom according to its own constitutional requirements.


On 8 December 2017, the European Commission recommended to the European Council (Art 50) to conclude that sufficient progress has been made in the first phase of the Article 50 negotiations with the UK. On 15 December, the leaders of the EU27 confirmed that sufficient progress had been achieved on citizen’s rights, Ireland and the financial settlement, and adopted guidelines to move to the second phase of the negotiations. This also follows a resolution on 13 December by the European Parliament confirming that sufficient progress has been made. On 20 December, the European Commission sent a Recommendation to the Council (Art 50) to begin discussions on the next phase of the orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

The European Council (Art 50) guidelines of 29 April 2017 as well as the general principles and the procedural arrangements for the conduct of the negotiations established in the Council negotiating directives of 22 May 2017 continue to apply in their entirety to this phase of the negotiations.

For More Information

Text of the Negotiating Directives

European Council (Art 50) Guidelines, 15 December 2017

Website of Task Force 50