The vote was a ringing endorsement for the current EU negotiating strategy, which is built on a phased negotiation. First, the “divorce” terms must be agreed upon, after which a transitional period and eventually a new “partnership” will be discussed. The deadline for these negotiations is March 2019, when the UK will leave the EU.
The EP called on the European Council, “unless there is a major breakthrough in line with this resolution in all three areas during the fifth negotiation round, to decide at its October 2017 meeting to postpone its assessment on whether sufficient progress has been made.”
Michel Barnier, who has the mandate by the European Council to conduct the negotiations, has often been criticized by British commentators that he is too uncompromising and talks should be held in parallel.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, also addressed the EP on 3 October. He deplored that “when it comes to Brexit, we still cannot talk about the future with any real clarity,” because the terms of the divorce had not yet been agreed on before seeing “if we can half-lovingly find each other again.”
In a direct response to reports that the British government plans to negotiate with member states directly, Juncker said that:
“For those that think that the UK should just "go over Michel Barnier's head", I remind them that the commission has been appointed by the 27 member states and my choice of Michel Barnier had been welcomed by them. He acts on their behalf on the basis of clear negotiating mandates.”
Adding that not sufficient progress had been achieved to move to the second phase of the negotiations, which would include the transitional deal and any agreements on future relations, Juncker remained defiant that the EU would not suffer from Brexit. Referring to his own 5 possible scenarios, the state of the union speech, the speech by Macron at the Sorbonne and other initiatives, He welcomed that the debates on the future of Europe were multiplying. He said that “this was a good sign because by doing that, we demonstrate how healthy and vigorous European democracy is. Our future is not Brexit, it’s Europe.”
The motion, drawn up by parliament’s Brexit Steering Group, reiterates the EU negotiating position on the transition deal, and stated:
“such a transition can only happen on the basis of the existing European Union regulatory, budgetary, supervisory, judiciary, enforcement instruments and structures”.
Such a transitional period, when the United Kingdom is no longer a member state, can only be “the continuation of the whole of the acquis communautaire which entails the full application of the four freedoms (free movement of citizens, capital, services and goods), and that this must take place without any limitation on the free movement of persons by imposing any new conditions.”
The resolution naturally addresses one key concern for the EP: citizens’ rights. It demands:
“the full set of rights citizens currently enjoy, such that there is no material change in their position, and that it must ensure reciprocity, equity, symmetry and non-discrimination for EU citizens in the United Kingdom and UK citizens in the European Union.”
The EP considers it vital that “commitments undertaken by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in her speech of 22 September 2017 translates into tangible changes to the United Kingdom’s position and concrete proposals accordingly.”
“This period will be short and supervised, and will involve the full regulatory structure, as well as budgetary and legal conditions, and the role of the European Court of Justice. It was your request to have a short transition period. It is our right to say that this will be subject to the conditions of the single market. We were not surprised by this request for a transition period. We foresaw it. We will discuss it at the appropriate time, and that time has not yet come. I would need a mandate for this. I would like to tell Mr. Farage a simple legal point: the trade deal you want cannot be signed by a member state of the union. You need to have legally left before we sign this trade deal.”